Forsyth neighborhoods are looking better and safer after city code enforcement officer Jeremy Malone’s work helped remove 19 derelict vehicles, several lots have been cleared of overgrown weeds and some abandoned houses have been demolished. On the other hand, a lot of work to clean up blight in the city remains and issues have been identified on at least 34 properties.
Malone updated the Forsyth Housing Authority on Jan. 7 about his efforts to improve unsightly properties in the city. Finding a remedy for blighted property has been an ongoing concern of the Housing Authority, and Malone is handling code enforcement in Forsyth.
Malone took on code enforcement responsibilities over a year ago after a gap when no one was assigned to be proactive in dealing with nuisance properties. He began reading the city’s pertinent ordinances to learn Forsyth’s policies and regulations on properties and continues to increase his knowledge and organization in dealing with them.
Malone said he has created templates for four letters to address code enforcement violations: properties, derelict vehicles, sanitation/unsafe housing and grass and weeds. He tries to handle problems informally first by talking with property owners. Sometimes they are eager to remedy problems and he can help with ideas for resources. However, if he can’t get in touch with a property owner or if he feels he is getting a run around, the next step is to send a letter and start the process of getting the individual responsible for the property into court.
Malone said he has worked with SSI, the provider of the city’s computer system, so there is a record of all letters and citations, keeping a time log of interaction on blighted property.
Abandoned vehicles have been the easiest issue to correct, quickly making a difference in a situation that makes a neighborhood unattractive. Malone has dealt with 23 vehicles and resolved the issue with 19 of them. He is working on issues at 34 properties, plus properties in the Milledge Circle area that he considers a special project.
He identified five houses in the Milledge Circle area as unsafe and in such disrepair they are “falling down.” Two of the houses have been demolished and the debris cleared. There has been progress on the other three houses. Of 25 abandoned vehicles in the neighborhood, 10 have been removed. Malone has identified six properties for sanitation issues, where the house or yard is being used as a trash dump. Issues at two of the locations have been resolved. He sent letters to all of the property owners and is ready to follow with citations where there hasn’t been progress.
Housing Authority members asked Malone about specific properties that have caught their attention. Chairman Chris Hewett asked about a white house that can be seen from I-75. Malone said the lot at 321 Hill Street has been cleared of overgrowth, and the owners are making efforts to fix the house. Dana Lynch asked about a burnt house on Indian Springs. Malone said the house at 454 Indian Springs has been demolished and the lot cleared.
When asked about several houses on Freeman Avenue, Malone said he went to the street and obtained addresses of the houses in disrepair, but when he researched them, some of them are shown not to be in the city limits, which means his authority wouldn’t extend to them. There are islands not annexed into the city in the area. Lynch asked if Forsyth and Monroe County had joined their code enforcement. City attorney Bobby Melton said the city and county consolidated their building permits but not code enforcement. He said he will review the properties and determine whether they are in the city limits or not. Asked about blighted houses in the Blount Hill neighborhood, Malone told the Forsyth Housing Authority that several of the houses belong to developer Otis Ingram and he has been talking with him about the condition of the properties.
Lynch asked Malone what the Housing Authority can do to support his code enforcement work. He said a big issue is people with blighted properties who don’t have money to clean them up. For example, he has been working for a year with Maggie Jackson who owns a burned house on Sharp Street. She doesn’t want to sell the property but has no means to improve it. Melton said if the city demolishes the house and cleans the lot, it will place a lien against the property for the cost of the demolition and clean up. It wouldn’t collect the lien until the property is sold. Malone said he doesn’t know the cost of demolition but has heard it would be about $5,000, which might exceed the value of the lot.
Melton asked Malone if he knows of any grants or funding to help property owners clean up blighted properties. Malone said he has reached out to Kingdom Builders but hasn’t heard back, and one non-profit called him saying it might be able to help.
“We just want the property cleared and to be safe,” said Malone.
Other houses mentioned specifically by Housing Authority members are on Washington Street and Phillip Lane. Malone said he is concerned about the commercial building at 36 E. Johnston Street, which has a dirt floor, because moisture/mold are beginning to affect adjacent buildings.
The slate of Hewett as chair, Lynch as vice chair and Jane Pennington as secretary was approved for the Forsyth Housing Authority for 2021. Kathy Rowland, whose term expires in May, has asked not to continue on the Authority; possible candidates to fill her seat were discussed. Freida White also serves on the Housing Authority, which has jurisdiction over Forsyth and the area 10 miles beyond the city limits.