Only shards remain where there once were windows. Or only a few boards remain where there once were walls. Sometimes, a pile of wood and trash is all that’s left.
They’re the eyesores nobody wants next door. And now, they’ve become the targets of county officials.
A special task force appointed by Jessamine County Planning and Zoning, along with Jessamine County Fiscal Court, has been identifying unfit buildings around the county and requiring their owners to either repair them or remove them.
The initiative, begun in late 2011, already has been responsible for the removal or restoration of 31 homes, according to a January report. Five more are being repaired or have been ordered to be repaired; one is being torn down; another has been ordered to be torn down; and seven more are going through the Jessamine County Board of Adjustments process.
Chris Woodall, planning director for Jessamine County, said the effort began after the county received several complaints about buildings in the northeastern part of town, mainly in Cool Breeze Estates and in Tates Creek Estates.
“Several structures we noticed were in bad shape,” he said. “We sent some code-enforcement officers to just sort of drive around. Then we compiled a long list of structures and properties.”
The result was a list of at least 70 properties. That list has changed, with some properties being removed, and some, including some from other areas of the county, being added, Woodall said.
To tackle that list, the task force, led by Woodall, developed a plan of action, deciding to identify three dilapidated structures per week, giving their owners two weeks’ notice of inspection. Starting with the fourth week in the process, the task force has identified three structures each week and inspected three previously identified buildings.
During the investigations, task-force members photograph the structures and obtain written documentation of the conditions, Woodall said.
The first step in the process — finding property owners — isn’t always easy, the planning director said. Some are out of the country. Some didn’t receive certified letters sent by task-force members and haven’t responded to advertisements. Still, the process is proceeding, and officials are still searching.
Many of those who were found were brought before the board of adjustments and given a time limit to repair or remove their buildings and clean up their property. Others have taken care of the problem before appearing before the board, Woodall said.
If an owner hasn’t cleaned up the property before the time limit expired, the county has done so, Woodall said.
According to the report, county contractor Frank Daugherty has removed nine structures at the county’s expense. The county is working toward recouping that cost, including filing liens against the property owners.
The effort has accomplished a lot and has been well-received, Woodall said.
“We’ve had a lot of response from neighboring property owners,” he said. “When we first started, I wasn’t really sure what we were getting into, but we haven’t had a lot of push-back. Everyone has been very supportive.”
Many neighboring property owners have said they are pleased the county is working toward cleaning up the dilapidated buildings, he said.
The initiative is the first time the county has gone out looking for such properties, though the planning and zoning departments handle complaints on a day-to-day basis, Woodall said.
He said the bad condition of so many buildings in Tates Creek Estates and Cool Breeze Estates prompted the action. Of the 49 buildings that already have begun the process, 26 are in Tates Creek Estates and 13 are in Cool Breeze Estates, with the remaining 10 scattered throughout the rest of the county, according to the report.
“We felt we needed to take charge of this situation, wanted to make a special effort out there to handle those,” Woodall said.
Besides cleaning up buildings that are already in bad shape, another goal of the project is to prevent owners from letting their properties deteriorate, he said.
“The goal is not to continue to put out fires, but to prevent them from happening in the first place,” he wrote in the report. “Through this project, the groundwork has been laid for that type of atmosphere.”
The task force is composed of Woodall; Donna Hager with planning and zoning; Carl Perkins, county officer and safety department manager; Mike Eakins, county officer and building inspector; and Lisa Bolton and Lindsay Ames of the Jessamine County Health Department. The group is still at work, cleaning up the many dilapidated buildings remaining in the county.
Doing so wil be good for the whole community, Woodall said.
“We have a lot of people who take good care of their property, who take a lot of pride in that,” he said. “We’re trying to facilitate that. We’re doing it to make the county a safe place for everybody.”