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Board addresses Fort West complaint

For the second time this month, a Fort West subdivision woman addressed Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen about a vacant home in her neighborhood.

“The house has been in decline for two years now … it’s a severely neglected property,” Ellen Tierney-Jones said of her neighbor off Longbow Road, describing a home with birds nesting in the stucco walls and a severely overgrown lawn.

“In the last year, I’ve removed five feral cats from the property. We had a vagrant living in the house who was taken out and arrested.

“There are a lot of safety concerns here,” Tierney-Jones said at the July 23 Board meeting.

Ironically, she added, the owner has a lawn-mowing business.

At the Board meeting, she stated the owner had been notified of the home’s problems, but Town staff investigation has uncovered the fact the home is in foreclosure.

Country Home currently owns the mortgage.

Town Attorney Tom Hale said he could have an ordinance ready for adoption by the Board’s next meeting allowing the Town to perform upkeep at the home and charge the owner for the cost.

“There is a cost to the Town that it may or may not recover,” Hale said.

Hale cautioned any new ordinance would not qualify any home that did not please neighbors for maintenance.

“It’s not going to be automatic for every situation just because it’s an unpleasant situation, it’s going to have to rise to a certain level of severity,” he said.

Interim Town Administrator Gary Palmer said the Town’s building codes inspector John Householder likely would be the qualified judge to determine whether the Town needed to step in to maintain a house.

Hale said the owner of the home would have an appeal process and a deadline to perform maintenance as part of the ordinance.

The new ordinance would not address repairs to the home, but basically curb appeal and exterior maintenance.

“So we can mow the yard while the house falls down,” Alderman Bob Markli said.

An ordinance already in place allows the Town to simply tear down derelict homes and auction the property, but the standard for that level of deterioration is very high.

Palmer photographed the home Friday, July 24, with Tierney-Jones and another neighbor, Dave Suter. The two pointed out a broken window, which they believe was the means the vagrant used to enter the home.

The window has not been fixed, but neighbors have duct-taped the glass.

In an inspection later in the day, Householder pointed out a putting green area in the back yard, littered with golf clubs and golf balls.

Householder suspected a neighborhood youth had hit a golf ball through the window.

The home has been the subject of several calls to the Town’s complaint system, and according to Town records, the staff has issued a letter to the property owner, listing three violations to the Town’s regulations.

The deadline for compliance with those issues is Aug.10.

“When you live next door to feral cats and you have animals, you’re going to get diseases. When you live next door to vagrants and you have children, there are safety concerns here,” Tierney-Jones said.

“We’ll see what we can do,” Mayor Ralph McGill told her.


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