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Board discusses ‘unsafe property’ in Middlesex

The Middlesex County Board of Supervisors has authorized county attorney Heather Lewis to review the county’s nuisance ordinances concerning unsafe properties. The board wants Lewis to review the impact that derelict buildings have on the way properties are taxed, and provide the board with a memo as to how the entire process of enforcing the nuisance ordinance works.

Last year supervisors allocated $40,000 to go toward demolition of unsafe properties that owners would not improve. None of the funding has been used, it was indicated at a May 7 Board of Supervisors meeting.

Hartfield District supervisor John Koontz said he knew where there were several properties in Hartfield District where the funds could be used, but he was unclear of the process. 

When Koontz asked, “What legally can we do to use this ($40,000)?”

Lewis responded that a formal complaint is needed and most likely it will require court action against the property owner. “What I’m hearing is that you need a short memo as to how the process works,” she said.

Jamaica District supervisor Wayne Jessie reminded the board the nuisance ordinance deals with structures that are “unsafe.” He said that just because the structure appears to be abandoned does not mean it is unsafe. “If the windows and doors are boarded up, that structure by our code is not unsafe and not a nuisance,” he said.

Jessie also gave the board a history lesson on African-American ownership of land in Middlesex County. He said that some of “the older minority families” who own land are absentee owners. “There is land here that has been in the same family for generations and generations. Usually, there is one person paying taxes, but it is owned by many people who live far away,” he said. “The old homeplace is sitting there with no one looking after it but they still consider it their home.”

Koontz said he understands that what may look like a dilapidated old building could appear to be a fixer-upper to someone else.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newsstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 06.06.2019

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