BY SARAH R. GREGORY
Members of the Town of Greeneville's Standard Review Board say the town's new hearing process for structures deemed unfit for occupancy has worked as hoped regarding the first property the board has considered.
The board may be tasked with reviewing three more properties in the coming weeks.
In October, board members voted to give the property-owner of 1121 W. Main St. 30 days to secure a demolition permit, as it was determined that the house could not be brought up to building code standards at a reasonable cost.
"Reasonable cost" is defined in the town's ordinances as being less than 50 percent of a property's value.
The board responsible for making such a decision is composed of local citizens who are knowledgeable and trained in property-maintenance and construction.
At the beginning of Thursday's Standard Review Board meeting, Greeneville Building Official Jeff Woods reported that the property's owner, Jimmie N. Seaton, obtained the demolition permit within the time frame set by the board.
The property was cleaned up during the same time as well, and the structure was razed.
Woods and members of the board commended Seaton for cleaning up the property as requested in a timely manner.
"The town is really glad that he came in and did so," Woods said. He recommended the board close the issue.
"He did a good job," board member Bob Biddle said just prior to making a motion to close further discussion about the property.
Board members voted unanimously to close the matter.
'DID THE RIGHT THING'
"The property-owner did the right thing here, and the town, I'm sure, is greatly appreciative of him being a responsible citizen," board Chairman Brett Purgason said.
Purgason said the outcome -- in which the Town's Building Department did not have to incur expense to demolish or clean the property -- was a "win-win situation" for all parties involved, and "what we all hoped would happen."
Woods noted during the discussion that the Town had received numerous complaints about the property in the past, including reports of suspected drug-related activity, and trespassing by homeless individuals.
Seaton was not present for the meeting, but Purgason said that the board wished to commend him for the work he had done on the property.
"We recognize the efforts that he made," Purgason said.
NO TOWN FUNDS SPENT
No town funds were spent to clean up the property, since it was undertaken by the owner.
Woods said the Building Department has $20,000 budgeted each year to clean up such properties.
Once that money is spent, however, no other such projects can be undertaken until the fund is replenished in the next fiscal year.
Woods noted that since the Standard Review Board's creation, his department has received numerous calls requesting that the board review different properties.
"We're getting more calls," he said. "People want properties cleaned up."
MORE PROPERTIES TO DISCUSS
After discussion about the 1121 W. Main St. property drew to a close, Woods gave brief updates concerning more properties that may soon be before the board for consideration.
After a property is deemed unfit for occupancy and notice has been served on the property-owner, a hearing is scheduled before the Standard Review Board.
If repairs cannot be made at a "reasonable cost," the owner may be required to remove or demolish the structure.
If an order is made and an owner fails to comply, the Building Department has the authority to have the structure repaired, or vacated and demolished.
If the property-owner does not act and the Town initiates repairs or demolition, a lien can then be placed against the property in the office of the Greene County Register of Deeds in an attempt to recover the funds spent in the process.
OWNERS TO BE NOTIFIED
Owners of three properties that may be discussed by the board during January's meeting have not yet been contacted but would be given 30 days notice to arrange a public hearing, Woods said.
Properties briefly discussed by the board were:
* 401 E. Church St.;
* 806 Forest St.; and
* 105 Montford Ave.
CHURCH STREET PROPERTY
The town has received "numerous, numerous calls" about the Church Street property, located near the rear-parking lot entrance of Greeneville High School, Woods said.
The structure, which was badly damaged by fire earlier this year, has changed ownership multiple times, with its current owner living outside Greeneville, Woods said.
That individual, he added, would be contacted and given time to secure permits to repair or demolish the property.
If the owner does not act, Woods said, the Building Department would send a notice scheduling a hearing before the board.
FOREST STREET PROPERTY
Woods told board members he felt that property at 806 Forest St. would likely be able to be cleaned up.
"I don't think it's in the shape that it needs to be torn down," he said. "It needs to be cleaned up and sealed up to keep people out."
Woods said the Town has received numerous complaints of trespassers "coming and going" and that the interior had been "totally trashed."
"I think we're getting a lot of kids in that house," Woods said, noting that walls were covered in graffiti and that windows and doors had been kicked out or otherwise knocked out.
Woods said the structure had "been sitting in this shape for at least a couple of years" and was owned by an individual who resides out-of-state.
Woods reported that he felt that property at 105 Montford Ave. could also likely be cleaned up and sealed off as opposed to being demolished.
He shared with members of the board a letter of complaints and photographs of the property that had been sent to the Building Department by an adjacent property-owner.
Woods said he had been on the property, which is vacant, within the last year, and has posted a notice before saying that it needed to be cleaned up.
"The house is not to the point it needs to be torn down. It just needs to be cleaned up," Woods said.
"If the owner does not want to clean it up and occupy it, it needs to be sealed," he added.
Board members took no action regarding the three properties and did not spend time discussing them, as Woods was informing the board of potential future business.
The next meeting of the Standard Review Board is scheduled for Jan.16 at 2 p.m. at Gteeneville Town Hall.