By Monroe Roark
The discussion and action
taken by the Henry County Board of Commissioners last week regarding
a nuisance abatement issue illustrates the length to which a
municipality must go at times to deal with problems while respecting
A photo of the burned-out
home at 539 Grove Pointe Court in Locust Grove that was the
topic of a recent Board of Commissioners meeting.
Photo by Monroe Roark
The house at 539 Grove
Pointe Court in Locust Grove burned to the ground in August of
2010, county code enforcement director Arthur Weems pointed out
at the board meeting, and an assessment by the Building
Department showed that it cannot be rebuilt in its current
state. Weems asked the commissioners for authorization to move
forward with the demolition of the dilapidated structure.
His office has spent three
years dealing with banks and mortgage companies as well as the
previous residents of the property. The couple who lived there went
through a divorce, and Weems said the former wife got the property
in the divorce but is now deceased, while the former husband is not
interested in the property at all.
As part of its due diligence,
Weems’ office received a letter in May of 2011 from the Federal
National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), saying that it had
“charged off” the mortgage on the property.
Weems displayed numerous
photos of the structure, inside and out, to show the extent of the
damage. He said that since it was abandoned, there have already been
cases of dumping as well as vandalism such as theft of copper from
“The structure is a total
loss,” said Weems. “It has no value.”
Chairman Tommy Smith said he
wanted the audience to be clear on what “nuisance abatement”
“If the government is going
on private property, it needs a rhyme or reason to do it,” said
“This is America, and we have
property rights. You have to jump through the right hoops and
complete the process.”
Smith added that during a
previous stint in code enforcement while a county employee a decade
ago, “my eyes were opened about what it takes to get to this point.”
Weems said there are probably
20-25 houses in the county in this condition, and his office deals
with them on a case-by-case basis. He focuses most of his attention
on those houses in neighborhoods, such as this one, before those
that are on acreage and less likely to impact surrounding
“The people around this
property have been very patient,” he said. “Now they are getting
antsy, and we need to do something.”
The county will have to spend
some money to demolish the site and make it a buildable lot again.
The lowest bid Weems received for the job was $6,550 from a firm in
Griffin, and that was more than 30 days ago so the figure could be a
little higher. Weems said he has money in his budget for the job.
The cost can be recouped
through a lien on the property if the owner does not pay. There is
also a tax lien on the site that would be satisfied first.
County attorney LaTonya Wiley
laid out the procedure going forward after BOC approval. There will
be a title search and a legal petition in court, with a hearing
before a judge who will likely enter an order giving the property
owner a final window to address the issues. That could be around 30
days or longer, Wiley said. After that time expires, the county can
go onto the property and do what needs to be done.
“You can’t just go on the
property tomorrow,” she said. “There is still a process before
taking drastic measures.”
The board approved the resolution to proceed.