Residents aim to take back Olde Town

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Sometimes a nuisance, such as overgrown hedges, just takes a knock on an offending neighbor's door.

Rick Keroglian, the president of the Olde Town Neighborhood Association, evaluates a home on Greene Street using a sheet to rate code violations. The group hopes it will help residents identify violations and provide evidence to get the city to act.   Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Rick Keroglian, the president of the Olde Town Neighborhood Association, evaluates a home on Greene Street using a sheet to rate code violations. The group hopes it will help residents identify violations and provide evidence to get the city to act.

But in places where a nuisance property comes from years of neglect mixed with embedded crime, it can take a whole village to solve it. And a crowbar.

Olde Town's neighborhood association is that village, and a new tool they've developed -- a Nuisance Property Rubric -- is their crowbar.

The score sheet assesses whether a property is violating Augusta codes. Olde Town resident Adam Hoover designed the user-friendly form after researching city property ordinances.

"This will let us identify a nuisance property in our neighborhood and say, 'This is our No. 1 problem,' " Hoover said. "We can bring it to the attention of government agencies as a neighborhood association, instead of as one individual getting on the phone. It's weightier."

Code violations, such as abandoned vehicles, stacks of tires, piles of trash and overdue maintenance, are on the rubric. So are nuisance behaviors, such as loitering, prostitution, drug dealing and violent behavior. Each can be rated on a sliding scale.

"I think it's a great tool. They've taken a very proactive approach," said Pam Costabile, the code enforcement manager for Augusta-Richmond County. "If you have to go to court over a property, you have to prove what's going on. That's the hardest part."

Olde Town began using the tool, which is still being refined, two months ago, said Rick Keuroglian, the president of the neighborhood association. Any Olde Town resident can ask the association to evaluate a problem property on their behalf.

"You're able to see all the codes that they're directly in violation of," Keuroglian said. "The normal person wouldn't even know what the codes are. This enables you to clearly identify and record what's going on."

Keuroglian believes most property owners will address problems voluntarily if the neighborhood approaches them. But for stubborn problems, especially those involving crime, the rubric creates an evidence file that can be passed to authorities.

A year ago, Keuroglian and Hoover worked with Augusta's Chronic Nuisance Property Task Force to dislodge a drug house from their neighborhood. They documented code violations, police calls and letters to the landlord. The task force then presented the landlords with the overwhelming evidence and the landlords evicted the tenants.

Afterward, Hoover and Keuroglian developed the rubric as a way of standardizing the process so it could be repeated, they said.

"You have to regain control of the neighborhood, street by street, block by block," Hoover said. "If a physical location is not available for drug dealing, then you push back the front."

In December 2009, Augusta explored adopting a chronic nuisance property ordinance to hold landlords accountable for tenants' bad behavior. That effort fizzled when lawyers said it would violate the state constitution.

Keuroglian, who was on the committee, said he'd still like to have that ordinance and would like to change state law to get it.

"I'm not going to wait for that, though. I don't need to wait," he said. "Why don't we enforce the ordinances that we already have? Why not give the power back to the neighborhood?

"All it takes is the numbers and enough concerned people to rise up and say, enough is enough. We're going to take back the neighborhood."

Reach Carole Hawkins at (706) 823-3341, or carole.hawkins@augustachronicle.com.

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commonsense-is-endangere
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commonsense-is-endangere 04/02/11 - 12:24 am
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What is it that makes some

What is it that makes some energetic educated people want to live in these places? Do they expect the deadbeats to move out? Become model citizens while living on welfare,food stamps,and sect 8 housing?

floridasun
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floridasun 04/02/11 - 04:49 am
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Olde Town is one of Augusta's

Olde Town is one of Augusta's most interesting , eclectic neighborhoods. This in-town neighborhood has the potential to be similar to Atlanta's Inman Park or old 4th ward. Not everyone wants to live in the suburban, cookie cutter cul de sac.
More power to the residents of Olde Town who are working to improve their neighborhood. Augusta so needs to work with residents of such neighborhoods to help stabilize the tax base, before even more residents move to another county

nofrills
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nofrills 04/02/11 - 05:54 am
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Its a waste of money. I was

Its a waste of money. I was part of the Ole Town remodeling done 10 years ago with the same thoughts in mind. We took some of the worse property in Ole Town and made them into beautiful homes complete with all new appliances. Ten years later it looks like we were never there.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 04/02/11 - 06:54 am
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How many times do you have

How many times do you have "take back" a neighborhood?

LauraE
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LauraE 04/02/11 - 07:02 am
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Old Towne will probably never

Old Towne will probably never make a comeback. The neighborhood rejuvination attempt started in the 1980s and has fizzled out do to crime and vagrants. Some of the oldest and most beautiful houses in augusta are there, but are sitting to rot mostly because of our economy, but also because of the losing battle homeowners are facing. Even if you have an alarm system, thugs are breaking in and vandalizing the old homes. I have a dear friend who moved to Augusta just because she and her husband fell in love with the old neighborhood and they wanted to be part of the rejuvination. Her house is now up for sale because she has had enough.

ReleehwEoj
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ReleehwEoj 04/02/11 - 07:13 am
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My wife and I tried to make

My wife and I tried to make Olde Towne our first home after marrying in 1982. It seemed to have so much promise. Shortly after someone tried to come in our bedroom window, while we were lying in bed watching TV, we decided we'd rather live somewhere else more secure. Time does not seem to have improved the situation there.

Lawpig
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Lawpig 04/02/11 - 09:55 am
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I do understand the

I do understand the frustration of people who tried to make the neighborhood better, only to be run out by thugs. I've worked in Olde Town for the past ten years. I think it's safer than it used to be and I notice more younger affluent people moving in.

To the first poster: educated people move into these neighborhoods because they believe in this town and want to improve it.

CorporalGripweed
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CorporalGripweed 04/02/11 - 11:23 am
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To those saying, "Why don't

To those saying, "Why don't these people just move?". I say everyone has a right to live in a neighborhood where the law is enforced. The thugs and lowlifes count on those with a defeatist attitude. It sounds as if the good people of Olde Town have had enough. And intend to rid themselves of those who count on apathetic neighbors as well as lax code enforcement which allows these lowlifes to continue to ply their "avocation". Be it a slumlord or a drug dealer.
Keep up the good work!!

mike71345
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mike71345 04/02/11 - 11:28 am
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I do hope that this program

I do hope that this program works better than the historic district regulations that the neighborhood association lobbied to impose on the neighborhood four years ago. It's nice to see them going after slumlords and criminals rather than homeowners this time around.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 04/02/11 - 11:54 am
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I have just heard of 4

I have just heard of 4 breakins in the last 2days...some at Ashley Circle in Martinez area...some near me & Roswell ga.area....
Front doors bashed in in daylight time....are they getting more dangerous-brazen-or is crime paying off for some.

Lori Davis
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Lori Davis 04/02/11 - 03:40 pm
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Way to go Adam and Rick.. My

Way to go Adam and Rick.. My earlier post was removed because the truth hurts. The truth I am referring to had to do with a stubborn landlord in Harrisburg. We applaud the Old Towne Landlord who did the right thing by removing the drug dealing tenants. We still need to push for a CNPO to put the last piece of the puzzle in place. Again, the CNPO brings the bad landlord to the table to help to solve the chronic nuisance problem. Right now, a landlord does not have to be of any help at all when it comes to behavioral issues on his property. In this day and time we need the help from everyone involved.

CorporalGripweed
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CorporalGripweed 04/02/11 - 05:43 pm
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As my previous post was

As my previous post was removed for being too specific, let's come at this from a different direction. Three years ago Harrisburg was saddled with a classic "chronic nuisance property" on Eve Street. The owner, (who obviously doesn't want to be identified) basically did absolutely nothing to help the neighborhood alleviate the problem. He was even sued by a resident of said neighborhood. This resident and other concerned citizens,was tired of being ignored. This landlord was eventually forced to evict these tenants when all he had to do was listen to the concerns of the neighborhood. I believe the AC editorial page even went so far as to say this particular resident was "right all along".
A CNPO will bring poor landlords to the table so average citizens won't have to sue to get relief from landlords such as the one who owns the aforementioned property on Eve Street.

whatsupwiththat
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whatsupwiththat 04/03/11 - 07:19 am
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While the Olde Towne concept

While the Olde Towne concept may well have been ill conceived, with East Boundary being the line between prosperity and poverty, we all must exercise our legal rights to maintain the neighborhoods. One property like those infecting Olde Towne, if allowed to remain, brings another and another until it's beyond recovery. One of the quickest ways to bring down safe, secure neighborhoods is Section 8 housing. Our well meaning liberal elite believe main streaming our career welfare recipients will put them on the road to recovery. Instead, it puts people who could care less about maintaining their property in the midst of those who do, where they remain until the house falls down around them, then move on to their next government subsidized home. The other residents are typically not free to leave - they are bound by a thing called a mortgage.

Oldetown
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Oldetown 04/03/11 - 09:47 am
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This is Rick Keuroglian, and

This is Rick Keuroglian, and I am always amazed at what a neighborhood can accomplish when they work together! Oldetown is coming back bc it has wonderful people who love their neighborhood. They take great pride in its heritage, historic beauty, downtown living, renovations, neighborhood dinners, front porch talking, Tour of Homes, Neighborhood watch program, volunteering service projects, and diverstiy...and I could go on and on. We love our neighborhood! There is a place for all. To those "nay sayers" I challenge you with this...No one can do everthing, everyone can do something but let no one be guilty of doing nothing! Hope motivates me and I hope other neighborhoods rise up and get organized because you have more power than you think!

corgimom
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corgimom 04/03/11 - 05:57 pm
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As long as the commissioners

As long as the commissioners keep cutting Ronnie Strength's budget, nothing will be "taken back", ever.

Olde Town has been "taken back" numerous times over the last 30 years, and it still remains crime-ridden.

You can't stop criminals from using the streets, and thieves are lazy- they steal from their neighbors in about a 1/2 mile radius.

corgimom
41317
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corgimom 04/03/11 - 05:58 pm
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"To those saying, "Why don't

"To those saying, "Why don't these people just move?". I say everyone has a right to live in a neighborhood where the law is enforced."

You are absolutely right, CG. Now tell the county commissioners that.

CorporalGripweed
0
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CorporalGripweed 04/03/11 - 06:32 pm
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Or better yet, tell Sheriff

Or better yet, tell Sheriff Strength and Rob Sherman at code enforcement. Everyone cries about the RCSO losing $750,000 from their budget but if I remember correctly Sheriff Strength said that would make no difference on street patrols.Which begs the question, Why? Also I believe code enforcement in this city is at best inept and at worst corrupt. So it seems there is enough blame to go around.
Bottom line for me, if it does not affect them directly,bureaucrats generally could care less. And this city government has far too many bureaucrats and not enough leaders.

AutumnLeaves
10964
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AutumnLeaves 04/03/11 - 10:51 pm
0
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I hope that those people that

I hope that those people that were complacent, patronizing, prejudiced and dismissive of my complaints since about 2000 in the 30906 area never get a taste of what my family went through. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. I can fully understand why so many good people rise up and leave neighborhoods they love. It is called self-preservation. Law-abiding residents were eventually out-numbered by criminals and the criminals' enablers and co-dependents. There were not enough people left to fight the battles.

AutumnLeaves
10964
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AutumnLeaves 04/04/11 - 11:22 am
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Rick, kudos to you for

Rick, kudos to you for trying. We did, too. You are not doing anything the rest of us didn't try, too. Do not dismiss those who have lived here for decades, clinging onto our homes by sheer willpower, as nay-sayers. We are exhausted from the battles, even if we haven't given up and we just want you to know that it isn't going to be easy. The first 20 years I lived here we did not have ANY problems with crime. After the mid-eighties it began to happen to us personally. After the mid-90's it began to explode exponentially to us and whole neighborhoods. I commend what you are doing, just don't turn around and call experienced, engaged and pro-active law-abiding residents naysayers. We are just giving you the benefit of what we've learned in the war zone.

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