Magnolia city inspector details unsightly property removal in city, lists over 40 addresses currently on his radar for cleanup or demolitionby J.D. Bailey on 04/26/22
After a local citizen’s efforts to bring awareness to numerous unkempt and dilapidated properties around the city last month, Magnolia City Inspector David Nelson on Monday issued an in-depth presentation to the Magnolia City Council on the state of the city’s structural removal efforts.
The municipal official began his informative session by thanking the concerned citizen for taking over 30 photographs of unsightly properties and stated just how important it is for local leaders and the public to learn more about the status of eyesore addresses in the community. The building inspector, however, did not sugar-coat his statements. He noted that the city contains dozens of addresses currently in disrepair -- and that he is well aware of all of them.
“There is not a shortage of dilapidated structures in town,” said Nelson. "They're all over the place."
Since 2011, the building inspector stated that the city has cleaned up between 150 and 175 structures. These efforts include the razing of Fredrick Circle in 2020, which included 10 broken-down residential homes, as well as the demolition of the crumbling shopping center at E. Main Street’s Fountain Plaza that same year.
But that has not been enough. The city inspector stated Monday that at least 100 more structures could likely be condemned or removed, but the process is not as simple as bulldozing over a property at will.
“It’s just not that easy,” he noted. "It takes a lot of time."
On Monday, Nelson issued a list of addresses that his office is currently attempting to either clean up or remove. A total of 12 structures are already on the city removal list, according to the inspector, and letters have been sent to over 40 property owners in just the past month. These addresses include the following:
- 520 West Ross
- 617 Calhoun
- 904 South Vine
- 1115 Patton
- 512 Smith
- 616 Jeanette
- 903 Jeanette
- 201 South Height
- 409 Cedar
- 417 West Ross
- 702 West Calhoun
- 200 South Jackson
- 200 South Washington
- 202/204 South Washington
- 810 Elm
- 521 Peace
- 1316 Mallard
- 622 Peace
- 1102#B West Greene
- 308 West North
- 320 Davis
- 1214 Greene
- 706 Doris
- 705 North Dudney
- 818 Peach
- 1323 Dewberry
- 1323 Blackberry
- 815 Laura
- 3 McArthur Circle
- 6 McArthur Circle
- 9 McArthur Circle
- 11 McArthur Circle
- 1514 Blackberry
- 220 King
- 321 Sylvia
- 213 Leila
- 815 West Monroe
- 815 West Greene
- 815 North Height
- 804 McNeil
- 1517 McCray
- 1403 McCray
“The easy ones are out of the way,” said Nelson on Monday. “From this point forward -- and really for the past three years -- it’s getting more and more complicated.”
Tracking down the actual owner of an abandoned or unsightly property is also part of the problem. Oftentimes, the listed owner is an extended family member who acquired the home through a relative’s death, and resides nowhere near Magnolia and never intends to do anything about the address.
“They couldn’t care less about the city,” Nelson added. “... It’s a nightmare getting to who actually owns the home and who actually needs to be talked to.”
As the city inspector explained Monday, the steps to remove a dilapidated home are not swift. The process begins by tracking down the titleholder, then a notification is issued by mail. Once the letter has been sent, the city inspector then hopes to work with the owners before moving on to more expensive steps. He noted that this is by far the easiest course of action to take.
“If they will talk to me and agree to pay what the city charges -- which is not outrageous -- we can make a better deal than if we have to go through the certified process,” said the city official.
If that does not work, the process proceeds to more official and costly avenues. The steps include issuing a certified notice to the property owner, as well as placing a legal notice in the local newspaper. These steps alone equal more than $600, according to Nelson.
“Right off the bat your bill just went up," he said, "if we have to go that avenue."
If that does not work, another letter is sent informing the owner he has 30 days to make a move, or the city inspector will bring the matter before the Magnolia City Council for condemnation. Upon the passage of the action, another certified letter is sent and newspaper notice issued, which costs an additional $600 or more. The notices will state that action must be taken within 30 days or the city will be forced to demolish the structure.
This practice, according to Nelson, has resulted in numerous homes being torn down, and a few liens being placed on properties. These steps, however, are always last resorts.
“We don’t want to put a lien on your property," he said. "We don’t want to tear down your house. But we will if we have to."
The city inspector also noted that, while some homes may need to be removed, if someone is currenlty residing in the structure, the city will not force them out of their dwelling.
“If somebody is living there, I’m just not going to touch it,” he said. “We’re just not going to do that.”
Unsightly properties purchased out of delinquent tax auctions are in the cross-hairs of the city inspector as well.
“If you buy one of the properties that have received letters, I’m going to know you’re the new owner, and I’m going to be coming after you,” he added. “…It’s going to cost you more money in the end if you don’t try to work with us.”
The city is willing to work with property owners, but Nelson stated he and his office will no longer accept small clean-up efforts to extend the removal process. He also noted that he hopes local inspection code ordinances can be updated to help expedite the process in the future.
The city official also requested that citizens help aid the city in tracking down property owners that may reside out of the area, and to try to convince them to expedite the process as much as possible, for the sake of Magnolia.
“We are working on this, but we need everyone's help,” he said. “… We just want to clean the town up.”