"Shooting" house was condemned - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

"Shooting" house was condemned

July 26, 2006

Albany --  As frightening as Wednesday's shooting was to people in the neighborhood, it didn't come as a big surprise.

They've complained for years about this vacant house at 1303-B South Davis Street. You see, it's among the dozens of abandoned, dilapidated and dangerous properties we've come to regard as the city's eyesores.  

Eleven months ago, this condemnation notice was nailed to the door at 1303-B South Davis Street. Now, yellow crime scene tape was strung around it.

APD Chief James Younger: "The house had been condemned. There was a sign on the door indicating that it was unfit for human habitation so the house was in extremely poor condition."

People in this quiet neighborhood called police this morning after noticing someone put curtains up in the house overnight. Neighbor Cheryl Wright said, "We don't know who is living in these abandoned houses and what could happen at night."

For more than a year, they've watched the vacant house deteriorate. Neighbor Ellen Dawson says, "We've been having problems with this house for the longest. Ever since the neighbor left, children coming in and they done broke out all the windows."

They called code enforcement. Ellen Dawson: "We done called them before and they sent people out here to look at it, they even put a notice up there to the door to condemn the house, but other than that, wasn't nothing else did to it."

The house was owned by 68-year-old Margaret B. Nash, who died in February 2005 while living in Clayton County. Our investigation shows that Albany's code enforcement office did respond to complaints about the rundown house.

County records show the last time taxes were paid on the property was in 2003. They condemned the property in August 2005.  "I didn't have any evidence that anyone was living there," said Chief Code Enforcement Officer Robert Carter. "There was none of the telltale signs of drug activity such as crack pipes, or beer cans and so forth."  

But it appears the whole process got bogged down.  "It's been prepared to go over there," Carter said. "The city attorney doesn't have it yet. He has a backlog of cases currently to go forward on, and this is one that was going to fall in that stack to be prosecuted."

Nearly a year after it was condemned, neighbors say the house still provided a haven for school-skippers and drug activity.  "People feel like, 'Oh its empty, you know, no one is there, its okay.' We don't know what kind of fiends or what kind of drug addicts is walking the streets at night," Cheryl Wright said.  

"Boarding it up, you have to get a court order to go on someone's property to do that," Carter said. "And getting it before the court has been difficult since we could not locate the owner."

Surprisingly, the code enforcement office apparently didn't even know the owner was dead, until we told them today. Now, he says, legal proceedings will begin to have the property torn down.

A little late for neighbors, who's fears were realized with the sound of gunfire this morning. "It is scary," says Ellen Dawson. "We've been trying to do something about it for the longest. So maybe now, something will get did about it."  

Even though the homeowner died just last year, she apparently had not lived in that house for quite some time. Neighbors tell us the house had been vacant for three or four years. Tax records show the last time the property taxes were paid was in 2003.

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