Homeowners Want Empty Eyesores Gone - WSPA.com

Homeowners Want Empty Eyesores Gone

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Vacant properties in one Upstate community have nearby homeowners calling for action.

They say two houses in particular have been sitting empty for years. These empty eyesores are homes that no one claims. No one even wants to buy them during county tax sales. So they end up just sitting there. And then your local government has to find the rightful owner to take care of it, or, a last resort, spend taxpayer dollars to tear it down.

To people just passing by, the vacant homes on Oaktree Road in Spartanburg County's Whitney Community, are unsightly.

To the people living there, the abandoned properties are much more than that.

"It is a hazard. Especially for my kids," said neighbor Ollie Abee.

"It looks like a ghetto," said Donna Brown. She's leading the fight in the neighborhood to get rid of two homes in particular. One of them recently had a fire. And the other one is right next door.

She says both have been sitting vacant for years.

"Once that one burned, I thought, this is ridiculous. This is really, really ridiculous," said Donna. "Something's gotta be done about it."

With no owners in site, Donna wants Spartanburg County to get rid of them.

Spartanburg County's Environmental Enforcement has already condemned both homes. But tearing them down?

Department Director Jamie Nelson says because many of these properties are so old and could have lead based paint or some other hazardous issues, demolishing just one of them could cost upwards of $12,000 to $13,000.

Nelson says the current budget for demolishing abandoned homes is just $10,000.

"They get scared or it becomes an eyesore to the community and we understand that," said Nelson. "It's just unfortunate that as the times that are, we have no other avenue but to keep trying to locate that property owner."

He says the process to get those rightful owners to take responsibility is complicated and can sometimes take years.

Take the burned house in Donna's neighborhood for instance. The owner died in 2010, no one has claimed it or made a bid for it. And it's now in a redemption period until December. So the soonest the home could be demolished is after the new year, in 2014.

And the home next door? Nelson says that owner was cited and is expected in court to answer for his mess in April.

There are currently 141 condemned homes in Spartanburg County. Nelson says if the home becomes completely unsafe and unstable, they will go ahead and tear it down.

If you notice an abandoned property where you live, report it.

Don't assume your local government knows about it. Call your city or county's property maintenance department.

For Spartanburg County, the number is (864) 596-3186.

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