Neighbors vent concerns about abandoned properties
Some people who live in Airport Heights are frustrated about homes in their neighborhood that haven't been lived in for years.
That includes Jeff Bailey, who has owned a home there for more than 20 years. A lot of that time Bailey has been dealing with two abandoned properties that are practically in his backyard.
The homes are boarded up and falling down, the utilities were turned off long ago, but Bailey said that hasn't stopped people from breaking in and even living there.
Two years ago, Bailey looked out his back window and saw flames inside one of the houses. He called 911. Someone had started a fire in the sink in an effort to stay warm.
Bailey and his neighbors are tired of the trouble abandoned houses often attract but he said they don't necessarily blame the people inside.
"Our position is, this is about the property owners and the responsibility of the property owners," said Bailey.
City officials seem to agree. but Richard Fern of code enforcement said it's difficult when the city is unable to contact the property owners or they simply don't respond.
Fern said the city changed the laws regarding abandoned or vacant property recently. Now, owners are required to register their property with the city, make sure it's secure and has proper signage, as well as pay a yearly fee. Fern said 130 properties are registered as vacant in the municipality.
But, if a vacant property meets those requirements, there is nothing in the law to compel an owner to make improvements. Under existing code, homes can stay boarded up and falling down indefinitely, provided their owners are paying property taxes.
That's a frustration for Bailey, who recently sent a letter to the mayor with more than 40 signatures asking him to look into abandoned properties in Airport Heights. Bailey said he wished the laws had more teeth and that the city would do more.
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