Originally created 03/01/05

Decorated with decay

What do you call an order to demolish seven dilapidated homes in Augusta?

A good start.

The truth is, we give owners of such unsafe, unsightly structures far too much leeway.

Property rights must be respected, of course, and due process - a careful, lengthy one when you're talking about someone's real property - must be allowed to play out. Few states guard property owners' rights as zealously as Georgia.

But once it is made undeniably clear that a structure is abandoned, falling in, fails to comply with code - or all of the above - it should be demolished forthwith. Otherwise, it becomes a home for vermin, a hazardous magnet for playful children or, far too often, a safe zone for drug deals.

Perhaps worst of all, a collection of junky old homes depresses both the area's property values and the community psyche. How can a neighborhood have any significant amount of pride if it is decorated with decay?

The Augusta Commission today will consider joining a judge in condemning seven such properties in the Dover, Lyman and Miles streets area off U.S. Highway 1 in south Augusta.

"Change has got to take place," says Commissioner Jimmy Smith. "It can't happen any other way but to tear it down and start over."

"It is time," adds Commissioner Andy Cheek, "to reach in and cut the cancer out."

It costs money - an average of $4,300 a structure. At that rate, the city's $170,000 demolition budget will only be able to level about 40 structures this year, out of well more than 200 that need demolishing.

We strongly urge commissioners to make it a priority nonetheless.


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