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House next door vexes commissioner

Landlord says 'blight' is a matter of opinion

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Augusta Commission member Matt Aitken says he knows more about nuisance properties now than when he was elected a year ago.

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District 1 Augusta Commissioner Matt Aitken is fighting a nuisance property at 603 Telfair St., next to his home (left). He claims the vacant house isn't well-maintained.   Zach Boyden Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden Holmes/Staff
District 1 Augusta Commissioner Matt Aitken is fighting a nuisance property at 603 Telfair St., next to his home (left). He claims the vacant house isn't well-maintained.

Aitken went to Magistrate Court on Thursday to testify against a neighbor cited for poor property maintenance. It's Aitken's third time in court over the issue.

"When I got into this, as the city started moving forward with chronic nuisance property, it got to the point where I can see what people are feeling," Aitken said.

This year, Augusta studied -- but failed to craft -- a chronic nuisance property ordinance to fine landlords for the criminal behavior of tenants. The city's legal department said such an ordinance would be unconstitutional in Georgia.

In Aitken's situation, there are no tenants -- the house is unoccupied -- but resolving the nuisance has still been frustrating, he said.

Augusta inspector Larry Lariscy said Starkey Flythe, who owns the property at 603 Telfair St., is a habitual code violator. Lariscy has cited the property for overgrown vegetation and poor building maintenance and gone to court eight times.

"It's been an issue for years," Lariscy said. "He's been in violation of property codes and circumvented prosecution by demanding a jury trial in State Court."

State Court has never set a date to hear the case, Lariscy said.

Flythe did not appear at Thursday's Magistrate Court hearing but did accept a phone interview with The Augusta Chronicle . He said that his property might not look as good as Aitken's but that he doesn't think it's a nuisance.

"So much of this is just your personal opinion," Flythe said.

Flythe said he didn't go to court because he was sick with the flu. Magistrate Judge H. Scott Allen issued an arrest warrant against Flythe for failure to appear. Flythe paid a $1,000 bond Friday and was not arrested.

Aitken said fighting chronic nuisance property in Augusta is not a dead issue, despite this year's setbacks. He thinks if judges would levy maximum fines against violators, property owners would take compliance more seriously. He has spoken to state Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta, about changing state law to allow cities to adopt nuisance property ordinances.

Lori Davis, a Harrisburg resident who has championed a chronic nuisance property law for Augusta, also wants to see state law changed.

"It would be a huge weapon for this city," she said.

Commissioner Joe Bowles, who headed the committee tasked with developing a chronic nuisance property law for the city, said that until state law changes, there's no way to move forward with such an ordinance.

"It doesn't mean we need to stop trying to deal with nuisance properties, though," he said.

Bowles went to court Thursday to learn more about the process that Augusta residents face.

"Sometimes people say code enforcement isn't doing what it should or the judge is not doing what he should," he said. "But often, people manipulate the legal system to their advantage and the judge can't do anything about it. Right now I'm working to figure out what we can and can't do."

Comments (16) Add comment
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Brad Owens
4178
Points
Brad Owens 12/11/10 - 07:35 am
0
0
Until the property next to

Until the property next to Matt's is a crack house, he really isn't getting the FULL experience now is he?

Glad to see that he and Joe are taking a close look at all parts of the problem.

FYI, State Law does NOT have to change to do someting about it. They could cut the useless boards and authorities all thier monies and hire more Law Enforcement.

I know Starky and I would not put him in the same category as the real slum lords in downtown.

Brad

jrbfromga
433
Points
jrbfromga 12/11/10 - 08:26 am
0
0
You go Matt! The state law
Unpublished

You go Matt! The state law needs to be changed to allow local application to the community. Government needs to be pushed down to the appropriate level. This is not a state issue, it is an Augusta issue.

raul
4445
Points
raul 12/11/10 - 08:33 am
0
0
I would think Mr. Flythe

I would think Mr. Flythe would have to ask himself the question, Would I want to live next door to this house?

bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 12/11/10 - 09:06 am
0
0
perhaps some help is

perhaps some help is needed?...........(wink,,wink)

WoodyKaminer
2
Points
WoodyKaminer 12/11/10 - 09:59 am
0
0
Wouldn't have made more sense

Wouldn't have made more sense for Starkey to use the 1000 bucks to repair whats wrong with his property than to write a check to the court? Hey, Im just sayin'

CorporalGripweed
0
Points
CorporalGripweed 12/11/10 - 11:19 am
0
0
Great point Woody. It seems

Great point Woody. It seems to me though, whether slumlord or not most of these people just don't want to be told what to do. They have the attitude "it's my property and I'll do what I want". I don't know Mr. Flythe but his attitude does seem a bit arrogant. He may not be a slumlord in the classic sense but at the very least it seems he should care more about the concerns of his neighbors. Not a very "neighborly" attitude if you ask me.
Moreover, it defies logic as to why someone wouldn't want to do routine maintenance on their property. By allowing it to fall into disrepair it lowers that properties' value as well as the value of the properties surrounding it. Again it just seems like arrogance to me.

AutumnLeaves
6749
Points
AutumnLeaves 12/11/10 - 12:32 pm
0
0
It's just a matter of time

It's just a matter of time before it becomes a crime magnet and/or crack house if it is unoccupied and no one keeps it up. It is best to be pro-active, which is what Mr. Aitken is trying to do, along with so many other frustrated Augusta citizens. It's hard to imagine what it's like living next door to a neighbor who disregards code issues and worse. It can become a nightmare.

mike71345
75
Points
mike71345 12/11/10 - 12:39 pm
0
0
These houses are in the

These houses are in the Downtown Historic District. How can there be blight? That's impossible.

Lori Davis
868
Points
Lori Davis 12/11/10 - 12:58 pm
0
0
Thanks for the article,

Thanks for the article, Carole. I live in between two empty houses, in Harrisburg. On one side, the owner continues to maintain the yard and property. She has been gone three years and is paying two mortgages. On the other side, the owner who is a bank executive has maintained his home only under continuous threat from code enforcement kept up with by me. If I had not stayed on top of this property and did not care, it would be in a rotten heap right now. This man has thumbed his nose at code enforcement and me until he was taken to court. He was not fined. After 2 years of constant scrutiny, the property is finally secure and in decent repair. When Summer rolls around, the grass will grow to three feet before he is made to cut it. Can't wait to start all over again. I cut his grass for three years until having back surgery. Now it is his responsibility. Also, I do know that Matt and First Presbyterian have offered their help to Mr. Flythe which he has repeatedly turned down.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 12/11/10 - 03:43 pm
0
0
Lorie, roundup kills

Lorie, roundup kills everything when the grass gets that high.

Lori Davis
868
Points
Lori Davis 12/11/10 - 06:27 pm
0
0
I try to do the right thing,

I try to do the right thing, but this is definitely an option for next year. It was bad when the prostitutes were in and out the back door. No mercy this year.

Austin Rhodes
2852
Points
Austin Rhodes 12/11/10 - 07:19 pm
0
0
Let me try this

Let me try this again...previous comment got lifted...

Is Flythe :

A. too old or infirm to keep it up

B. too poor to keep it up

C. too dang mean to do the right thing here

If it is A or B, he needs to sell the house. If it is C, a night or two in jail for contempt might send the message.

mike71345
75
Points
mike71345 12/11/10 - 07:22 pm
0
0
Starky is an Augusta

Starky is an Augusta treasure, more deserving of preservation than any of his houses.

CorporalGripweed
0
Points
CorporalGripweed 12/11/10 - 08:20 pm
0
0
I've been led to believe he

I've been led to believe he has the means to make sure the property is maintained. If he is indeed a "treasure" , then the least he can do is make sure his house is up to code....Period..

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 12/11/10 - 08:29 pm
0
0
Appears to be a diamond in

Appears to be a diamond in the rough.

LCC0256
626
Points
LCC0256 12/11/10 - 09:37 pm
0
0
Publish the names and

Publish the names and addresses of CHRONIC offenders who are the slum lords. If the situation does not improve in a reasonable amount of time allow a board of citizens empowered to enforce eminent domain and condemn the property & sell it at PUBLIC auction. Give the previous owner the proceeds MINUS THE COST OF LITIGATION arising from the legitimate exercise of this process...

crackerjack
150
Points
crackerjack 12/11/10 - 11:55 pm
0
0
www1949......Actually TOTAL

www1949......Actually TOTAL KILL from (THE HOME IMPROVEMENT STORE WHOSE FAVORITE COLOR IS ORANGE) has nearly three times the vegetation killer than RoundUp, and is cheaper.
FYI 18% to 46%

bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 12/12/10 - 02:11 am
0
0
burn

burn

justus4
99
Points
justus4 12/12/10 - 10:18 am
0
0
Why not give this guy a daily
Unpublished

Why not give this guy a daily section of space to identify nuisance properties? Better still, create a Weekly Report on chronic nuisances which can be operated by this guy. Does he do ANYTHING else?! Good grief! The place is littered throughout the state with shacks from the 50s & 60s....in short, a complete waste of time.

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