Piedmont tries again on nuisance properties
by Laura Johnson
lbjohnson@annistonstar.com
Apr 07, 2013 | 4262 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This home in Piedmont is on a list of properties generated by residents that could be labeled nuisances by the City Council. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
This home in Piedmont is on a list of properties generated by residents that could be labeled nuisances by the City Council. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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PIEDMONT - Piedmont officials are using a new approach to tackle an old problem — ridding the city of run-down buildings and dilapidated homes.

Since January, a residential abatement committee, appointed by the City Council, has been creating a list of problematic properties in Piedmont. Now city officials plan to use the list to begin the abatement process on about 60 properties there, said Mayor Rick Freeman.

Beginning next week the city will send letters to notify property owners that their homes or properties have been identified as nuisances. The notification will be the first step in a legal process that allows the city to clean blighted properties at the owners’ expense.

“This is their first opportunity to start cleaning up their yard,” Freeman said.

Piedmont’s residential streets are peppered with a mix of blighted homes and well-kept residences. The contrast is evident in several neighborhoods, including Gadsden Street where a handful of residents hope the city’s abatement push will make a difference.

“I wish they’d get it done,” said Larry Reynolds, who lives in a well-kempt one-level home there. “This used to be a pretty little town.”

Reynold's home is flanked by two residences that are as tidy as his own. The neighbors who live on either side of him, Harry O’Neal and Ann Rainey, said they are waiting to see whether the city’s abatement push will be successful.

If it is, it won’t be the first time the abatement program has made a noticeable difference. About eight years ago Piedmont was in the midst of an abatement push that led to the demolition of more than 100 homes, officials said.

Freeman said he hopes the renewed effort will make the city more comfortable for residents and more attractive to companies that are considering a move to Piedmont.

That abatement effort stalled in recent years but when the current City Council took office late last year, members decided to establish the residential abatement committee. Since then the committee, made up of two residents from each of the city’s seven districts, has been patrolling neighborhood streets to look for problem properties.

The committee members recorded the addresses on forms that were later turned in to City Council members and passed them to the mayor and on to Carl Hinton, the city’s building inspector.

While the residential abatement committee has been collecting lists of problem properties, a Piedmont City Council abatement committee has been reviewing the city's abatement ordinance. In a Thursday meeting the members of that committee, headed by Councilwoman Brenda Spears, will meet with Piedmont police Chief Steven Tidwell to discuss amending its existing policy, Freeman said.

The new ordinance could include provisions to expedite the abatement process to make it easier to get properties clean, Hinton said.

To be sure the city’s abatement procedures are consistent with surrounding cities, they've consulted Anniston, Centre and Jacksonville about the steps they take to clean up private properties, Freeman said.

The mayor added that the City Council could vote on the ordinance as early as the next meeting, on April 16.

While the city is planning to improve its abatement enforcement, it’s not making the changes without offering assistance. On April 13 the city will partner with the Piedmont Benevolence Center for a cleanup day.

Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.
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