Memories of Charmie Scott’s grandmother are gone forever and she is blaming the city’s aggressive blight removal efforts. This comes a week after the Mobile City Council approved an amendment to an ordinance that makes it easier to remove blighted structures from neighborhoods.
The U.S. Army veteran said the city tore down her grandmother’s home at 305 Clay St. suddenly in early December without providing her proper notice.
“It’s heartbreaking to me,” Scott said. “When my grandmother was in the hospital — for about a week — she thought about coming home and it was the happiest thought she had. I know how much that home meant to my grandmother; that’s why I didn’t want to tear it down.”
Scott said she’d done what she could to maintain the house after a fire destroyed it, mothballing it and mowing the grass. She has also paid the taxes on the property.
She said the final warning she received from the city was in August, when she saw a sign on the property warning of rat poison on the premises.
“They can’t say it’s not a sound structure,” she said. “There was one brick that had been twisted since Hurricane Frederic.”
Before she noticed the rat poison sign, Scott said, she hadn’t heard from the city since February 2015 when she was notified through a letter that there would be a public hearing on the property.
“From February  to this August, I didn’t hear anything,” she said. “Why would I cut the grass and board up the windows if I wanted the city to tear the house down?”
Deputy Director of Municipal Enforcement David Daughenbaugh said Scott was notified multiple times that she had not done enough to satisfy the city’s requirements to prevent the property’s demolition. Like everyone else put in this situation, Daughenbaugh said Scott was given 45 days to respond to a notice the city was going to put the property in its nuisance abatement protocol, but she never did.
Under normal circumstances, mowing and mothballing would be enough to secure the structure, Daughenbaugh said, but Scott’s property had suffered “extensive” fire damage. He said despite Scott’s attempts, the structure was not secure enough to avoid demolition.
Daughenbaugh said the city tried to work with Scott to get the home demolished at no cost through a United States Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, but she never signed the paperwork. Daughenbaugh said an elderly woman living next door to the structure was concerned it would fall on her house.
Scott said she had second thoughts on the demolition because she thought the city had put a lien on it to force her to pay. Plus, she said she wanted to try to save it. Scott intended to tear the house down to its studs and rebuild with the help of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Scott, who served two tours of duty, still has an interest in the property and can own it if she pays the lien the city imposed. She said due to medical expenses and medical issues of family members, she’s not sure she can get the money together to pay for the property.
In a December meeting, the City Council voted to make it easier for the city to gain quiet title on properties that are truly abandoned. Adding a state statute to a city ordinance already on the books will cut the process down from a three- to six-year process to a three- to six-month process. The amendment will allow the city’s Bloomberg Innovation Team to turn over more properties and help revitalize neighborhoods.
(Photo | Google Street View) The fire-damaged former home of Charmie Scott’s grandmother was demolished by the city of Mobile this month.
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