DOBSON — For the first time since passing an ordinance allowing the county board of commissioners to tear down dilapidated buildings considered a nuisance in the county, the board has flexed its muscles.
During Monday night’s meeting the board passed a resolution authorizing county planners to begin enforcement activity on a property located at 154 Pine Drive in Mount Airy.
The action came as the board met for its regularly scheduled meeting in the commissioner’s meeting room of the county government center in Dobson.
Addressing the proposed enforcement, County Planner Kim Bates told the board that the issue came to light following a complaint from neighboring property owners.
“This is related to a policy for the abatement of public health nuisances that you passed earlier this year,” he said. “We’re acting on a complaint received by our department on July 29,” he said.
Bates told the board that the house represented a public health and safety hazard.
“This is a property where the house has burned and we’re considering it a total loss,” he said. “The dwelling is badly damaged, a large portion of the roof is missing, the yard has high grass and there is an infestation of rats, snakes and other vermin.”
It was a sentiment echoed by nearby property owner Rodney Riggs.
“This house burned in December 2011,” he said, noting the condition of the property is affecting the entire neighborhood. “If we wanted to sell our house, we couldn’t sell it with this nearby. This is destroying our neighborhood.”
Commissioner Larry Phillips, who also lives near the property, said it was time for action to be taken.
“If there’s ever been a situation that needs to be remedied, this is it,” he said.
According to the language passed earlier this year, the new policy calls for a decision by the board to determine whether the condition of the building “is dangerous to public health and safety.”
County Attorney Ed Woltz told the board that if it deemed the property to be a public danger, they could pass an ordinance issuing an order of abatement.
“This gives the property owner a 60-day period to cure the hazard, and after that time, if the owner doesn’t clear it up the county would take care of it and bill the property owner,” he said.
That order to take care of the issue will be delivered to the property owner, listed on the resolution as Sarah Whittington Shelton, by the county sheriff’s office and by mail.
Shelton still has the right to appeal the notice of condemnation to the board of commissioners, but the notification of appeal must be filed with the clerk to the board within 20 days of receipt of the order.
If the she receives the order to repair or demolish the property and fails to appeal to the board of commissioners within 20 days, the county can proceed with removing the nuisance under its existing policy for the Abatement of Public Health Nuisances, authorized by state code.
If that happens, the abatement costs will be treated “in the same manner as a tax bill, and can be enforced in the same manner as a bill for delinquent taxes,” Woltz said.
The resolution authorizing the beginning of the enforcement action was passed on a motion by Phillips, with a second by Commissioner Paul Johnson. The board unanimously passed the motion.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.