They may have once been someone’s source of pride in a home, but now they’re magnets for pests or unsavory activity — so they’re coming down.
The City of Crossett is in the process of demolishing a number of abandoned, derelict or dangerous structures. Seven have been torn down so far, and Code Enforcement Officer Tony Jones said he hopes to complete demolition on 16 this year.
“I am getting a lot of good feedback, people saying, ‘Thank you, this should have been done years ago,’” Jones said. “I haven’t had a lot of negative feedback at all.”
Some of the structures that have been targeted for demolition were identified by complaints from area residents, but others were chosen by sight as Jones was fulfilling his other duties as code enforcement officer, a position the city council created in late 2017.
“The things I am looking for are if it’s an eyesore, secondly if it is a sanitary conditions issue, with rodents, rats, raccoons or snakes,” Jones said. “I look if people are using them for drug houses, are there kids going in and playing in them.
“If the roof is kind of caving in, if the windows are broken out, if it is grown up — there are things I look for.”
Once a structure has been identified as an eyesore, the first step is to identify who owns the lot, Jones said, something that is usually accomplished by finding out who pays the taxes on it.
When the owner is identified, Jones sends them a certified letter. As soon as they sign for the letter, the clock starts ticking that they have seven days to make some kind of improvement on the property.
The letter says, “Ordinance A-535 makes it unlawful for a property owner to permit any building, house or other structure on the property if the structure has become dilapidated, unsightly, unsafe, unsanitary or detrimental to the public’s health and welfare. The ordinance also makes it unlawful for a property owner to permit weeds, garbage, trash, litter, household appliances, abandoned vehicles, auto parts and other unsightly articles on a lot in the City of Crossett.”
Jones said demolition isn’t necessarily the way the process has to end. If the property owner receives the letter and addresses the violation, the process stops.
“If it seems like it can be fixed, I give them the option,” he said. “Everybody has the option to fix it or tear it down, but if it is dilapidated, tear it down.”
If the property owner does not respond to the letter, Jones runs a legal notice in the newspaper for two weeks. Following that, if the property is deemed in need of demolition, he sends notice to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
The ADEQ is involved in the process because of asbestos abatement concerns.
“When you do the asbestos part of it, you can’t tear down two houses within one block,” he said. “In a year’s time, you can only tear down one house per numerical block.”
When the ADEQ gives its nod, it’s demolition time.
The average cost for the process, start to finish, is approximately $2,300, Jones said.