By Jean Cole
A dilapidated house at 903 Browns Ferry Road in Athens is about to be demolished.
After holding a public hearing Monday on the fate of the abandoned home, Athens City Council members voted 4-0 to declare the home a public nuisance, an unsafe structure and have it demolished.
Unless the property owners appeal the council’s decision to the Limestone County Circuit Court in the coming days, the city will pay a company $5,500 to tear down the home and recoup the cost from the owners. If the owners do not pay the bill, the city will put a lien on their property. If the owners still refuse to pay when their property tax bill is due next year, the council will take steps to have the property sold to collect what is owed.
City Attorney Shane Black told council members during the pre-meeting work session the city had met all legal requirements before recommending that the home be declared unsafe and demolished. Those requirements included identifying the property through a legal description, identifying the property owners though a title search, notifying the property owners via 14 registered letters, placing a legal ad in the local paper asking the owners to fix the problems and informing them of Monday’s public hearing on the matter.
City Building Inspector Eric Waddell told council members during the public hearing that the home had structural failure in places along with black mold and a dangerous electrical system. He also said the home posed both a nuisance and a threat to children and other residents because it was not secure and could be entered at any time. He told council members the home, in its present state, should be condemned and demolished.
Only one resident spoke during the public hearing, and he was there to question whether the council had the correct address for the property because he, too, had a home at 903 Browns Ferry Road.
Black told the resident that the property in question was identified by legal description and parcel identification.
The resident did raise an excellent question. How will the city make sure it demolishes the correct home in a case where, by some error, two properties have the same address?
Black said the method in which the council identifies property for possible demolition not only includes a legal description of the property and parcel identification, which would rule it out as any other property, but also a current photo of the home to be demolished.