Razing houses is last resort

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Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com Tupelo's Department of Public Works demolished a house at 205 Nanney Dr., a foreclosed property, last week.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Tupelo’s Department of Public Works demolished a house at 205 Nanney Dr., a foreclosed property, last week.

By Robbie Ward

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Tupelo residents living near 205 Nanney Drive will never again see tractor tires holding a tarp over the house’s damaged roof.

Also gone – the blue tarp, visible on the roof for seven years or more, and the house.

No longer will raccoons and opossums climb in and out of roof holes and other openings in the dwelling.

Little remains at the property beyond small bits of wood, brick, insulation and other materials that used to make a house.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com The City Council designated the property a public nuisance and authorized demolition in December after the bank in control of the property did not respond to city requests to bring the property up to minimum city standards.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com
The City Council designated the property a public nuisance and authorized demolition in December after the bank in control of the property did not respond to city requests to bring the property up to minimum city standards.

After a paper trail of complaints and city code enforcement concerns dating to July 2007, Tupelo Public Works employees spent part of last week demolishing the residence, designated a public nuisance by the City Council in December.

Tupelo code enforcement officer Debra Byrd said the local government destroying residential property is rare. She can’t recall too many times it has happened in recent years aside from city-acquired property in the West Jackson Street redevelopment area.

“The last thing I want to do is tear down a home where someone lives,” Byrd said Friday. “If somebody doesn’t have the funds to repair their property, we try to work with them.”

The process leading to property demolition can take from two months to many years, depending on circumstances. If multiple problems with a property occur within a year, city code enforcement officers usually keep the case open. However, enforcement officers usually allow homeowners more time to address serious concerns like rotten wood or other safety hazards.

“We want to make sure we’ve given every opportunity to do what’s needed to the property,” Byrd said. “If somebody demonstrates they want to do something with the property, I’ll give them a chance.”

Before an excavator and bulldozer razed the Nanney Drive house, equipment operators saw how the back bedroom ceiling had fallen in. Construction equipment snapped rotten wood along the top of the house where the roof should have been.

Long gone are the last people who lived there. The Post Office started returning mail sent to the property owners in 2012. They did not leave a forwarding address.

Lee County tax records still list James P. Jenkins Jr. and Susan E. Jenkins of the property with an assessed value of $64,260. However, Mississippi Northern District U.S. Bankruptcy Court records show debts of $97,827, mostly a mortgage from Countrywide Home Loans, a financial company notorious for questionable lending standards during the national housing crisis of the late 2000s.

The bankruptcy involving the house finalized in November 2011.

With the vacant, decaying house in foreclosure, city officials voted unanimously in December to tear it down. Demolition costs will be assessed to the property owner.

“That house should have been torn down years ago,” said Lynn Bryan, Tupelo City Council member for Ward 2.

He agrees the city must strike a balance between struggling families with the negative impact dilapidated properties have on neighborhoods. Bryan said bank ownership of the property made deciding to demolish the house easier after city requests to improve the structure went unanswered.

Cheryl Burt, 51, and her family rented the now-demolished house for about 21⁄2 years until they bought a house across the street, 206 Nanney, in June 2006.

Burt recalls just before moving out of the house almost eight years ago how rain entered her bedroom, soaking many of her possessions. She watched from across the street for years as the house deteriorated and watched last week as the already-damaged structure turned to debris.

“It was just sitting there, making the street look bad,” she said. “I wish somebody will build another house there.”

robbie.ward@journalinc.com