published Sunday, October 13th, 2013

South Pittsburg residents complain about properties

Officials have received a formal complaint about this house at 118 Holly Ave. in South Pittsburg, Tenn.
Officials have received a formal complaint about this house at 118 Holly Ave. in South Pittsburg, Tenn.
Photo by Ryan Lewis

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — Several city residents are complaining about abandoned or burned-out properties that dot the downtown area of South Pittsburg.

At a recent City Commission meeting, resident Carolyn Millhiser said she wanted city leaders to examine any recourse they have to lessen those situations.

"They are an eyesore in the community," she said. "Neighbors try to buy the properties, and the owners won't sell."

Mayor Jane Dawkins said it's an "important issue," but the July 10 flash flood in South Pittsburg has put some similar problems on the "back burner" for the last few months.

"We hope [residents] will see a difference in this administration with those types of things," she said. "Of course, we had some interruption with the flood situation. We had some damage that we have to address, but [city leaders are] very, very interested in these properties."

Officials said the city got a formal complaint about the property at 118 Holly Ave. last week. Residents said snakes and other vermin are routinely spotted around the home.

"It devalues our town when somebody comes to look to buy a property," Millhiser said. "I'm sure anyone can name five properties in this town that have been sort of abandoned like that."

City Attorney Billy Gouger said there are "some options available to the city" and city leaders have "some powers" and "some rights" to address rundown properties.

State laws also cover dilapidated buildings that pose a "threat to the health, safety and welfare of the public," he said.

"It's just a matter of deciding what's the best option for an individual piece of property," Gouger said. "What's good for one may not work for the other. We'll look at it on a case-by-case basis."

It's much cheaper to address these issues through the city building inspector instead of going through state agencies, he said.

With proper notice, Gouger said the city can remedy problems such as overgrown shrubbery and lawns by mowing them and billing the cost of that work to the landowner through a property tax lien.

"We got backed up on that kind of stuff," Dawkins said. "There is a procedure to go through, but we are very much aware of that. It's very much on the radar screen."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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