Boarding up isn't enough, city says

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When it comes to bringing the gutted, sagging houses in Augusta's older neighborhoods up to par, the city can't seem to set the bar low enough for some.

Since March, the city has been willing to let owners of the vacant structures off the hook on building standards as long as they promise to make exterior touch-ups such as adding a fresh coat of paint and placing boards over broken windows.

Apparently, the $21 special permit to get the reprieve just hasn't been worth it. Only two property owners have used the "mothballing" provision, which was aimed at giving owners an alternative to demolition, said Pamela Costabile, the city's code enforcement manager.

It turns out even mothballing might be too cost-prohibitive.

"The ones that do call find out it costs quite a bit just to mothball," Ms. Costabile said.

Willie Anderson, 68, says he learned that when he "mothballed" a house last year on Daniel Street. Beyond the cost of the permit, he said he paid between $800 and $1,000 to hire workers to make necessary exterior improvements.

"That's not doing any repairs," said Mr. Anderson, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "That's just fixing it up" to comply with mothballing requirements.

He said the only reason he didn't demolish the house was because he planned to either live in it again one day or give it to family.

Although not many have officially mothballed, some are making efforts - just not the kind that would satisfy the city.

"Sometimes they just take it upon themselves and take it and board it up," said James Mathis, a code enforcement officer and housing inspector. But that isn't enough, he said.

Property owners often do little more than haphazardly slap boards on the windows, leaving the building unsecure and many times an eyesore, code enforcers said.

Preservationists and city code enforcers had hoped "mothballing" would catch on and improve the appearance of some of Augusta's blighted neighborhoods without destroying their historic character.

Instead, about 80 buildings were demolished last year because they were not up to code, Ms. Costabile said. About 138 await a similar demise in the courts.

Erick Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta, said the intention of mothballing wasn't enough to change the minds of owners who weren't fixing their property in the first place.

"If it works, it could be a real good thing," he said.

A more effective solution might be in city investment of federal dollars for historic housing rehabilitation instead of "just knocking things down," Mr. Montgomery said.

MOTHBALLING: WHAT IS IT?


Temporarily securing vacant and dilapidated buildings against the elements and trespassers

Permit Requirements


- Roof must be sealed


- Windows must be covered


- Water should be turned off


- Electricity should be disconnected


- Porches, decks, balconies, fences should be repaired and protected from the elements


- All metal surfaces should be rust protected, and gutters should be cleaned


- Potential points for leaks and other water intrusion should be blocked


- Ventilation must be adequate

Source: Augusta License and Inspection Department

Comments (7) Add comment
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eeggers
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eeggers 02/02/07 - 07:37 am
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I had no idea that moths were

I had no idea that moths were such an issue.

JimCox
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JimCox 02/02/07 - 07:57 am
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Just because a house is old

Just because a house is old does not mean it is worth saving.

jebko
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jebko 02/02/07 - 08:51 am
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Burn 'em down!

Burn 'em down!

KingJames
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KingJames 02/02/07 - 10:16 am
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There are really two options

There are really two options here. First and foremost, if no one is living in the houses and they are in obvious need of repair, but the owners won't at least secure them, they need to be torn down. An unsecure house is not only an eyesore for the community, but it has the potential to become a crack house. That only creates more crime in the community. The second optioin would be to actually use some of that federal money that was mention in the article to do the repairs and preserve the homes. It doesn't seem right that someone would want to own something that is a broken down eyesore.

voluptuously_auburn1
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voluptuously_auburn1 02/02/07 - 01:55 pm
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It's too bad these properties

It's too bad these properties cannot be turned over to work study, type apprenticeship programs for people not planning on going to college, or for ppl who need career training and then sold with the monies to be split between the programs and RC/CC government agencies.

KingJames
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KingJames 02/02/07 - 02:36 pm
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mcwalden, you have a very

mcwalden, you have a very good idea there. Have you ever considered running for county commission?

atwitsend
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atwitsend 02/02/07 - 02:50 pm
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What's the secret to

What's the secret to unlocking the mystery of Augusta's so-called code enforcement? Code is defined as a "systematic collection of LAWS" and enforcement means "compelling obedience to".

How, then, is a ramshackle, blighted property on Walton Way - a mere block from Milledge Road - allowed to exist year after year in a state of abject squalor? For literally decades this 'compound' - an abandoned house and an 'out building' - has been neglected, overgrown with vegetation, and in serious violation of every 'code' on the books. Most cities would have long ago ordered the owner to comply with the laws, to say nothing of showing some consideration for the neighbors!

It is confounding that those who take such pride in the highly touted "Historic Summerville" do nothing about this eye-sore. The owner gets a free pass year after year...decade after decade while those who live in close proximity must endure a close-up view of this monstrosity every single day!

"Garden City" indeed! Perhaps CBS should look beyond the grandeur of the Augusta National and take a little visual 'tour' of the environs. Maybe THAT would expose Augusta's dirty little secret!

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