The city of Ardmore currently has 244 condemned structures that need to either come down or be entirely rehabilitated, according to Community Development Director Jessica Scott, however, she said this number is always changing.
“People are buying them, people are tearing them down, and we’re tearing them down,” Scott said. “I think the average stays somewhere around that number but it comes and goes.”
Scott said the owners of condemned properties are given a hearing to plead their case and then ample opportunity to either correct the problems or tear the structures down themselves. Sometimes the property owner asks the city to take care of the problem and other times the city takes the structure down as a matter of last resort. This year the city has budgeted $50,000 for demolition projects. The money came available at the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1.
“Last year we had $40,000 and the year before that $30,000,” Scott said. “So the city is very committed to helping solve this problem. We’ll just see how many we can get down this year.”
Scott said the city has torn down one structure per week since the beginning of July, and the third structure will be going out for bid tomorrow. The total cost to tear down a structure can vary depending on the structure itself. Simpler structures can be done for less than $1,000, but the average cost per building ends up somewhere around $2,000, depending on the features of the property itself.
“Maybe you get a large two story or maybe it has a slab foundation or a storm shelter because we cannot leave a storm shelter on the lot because that becomes an attractive nuisance,” Scott said.
Many of these buildings themselves could be considered an “attractive nuisance.” This makes them especially dangerous because they can attract vagrants.
“When these properties just sit vacant they become a place for people to sleep, camp out and have parties in them — and all of those activities are dangerous and could lead to a fire,” Scott said. “If you have people living in there and trying to cook food or trying to stay warm in the winter or even just trying to have enough light to see at night, they’ll start small fires and then the house just goes up in flames.”
Scott said there was evidence of squatters living in the condemned structure that burned Friday and though there is not yet an official cause of the fire it may have been caused by individuals trespassing in the home. She said when one of these structures burn, it becomes a danger to its neighbors.
“That’s one of the biggest problems,” Scott said. “When we’re trying to put fires out in the vacant structures, we’re also trying to prevent the neighboring houses from catching fire. We don’t want that fire to jump to the next house.”
Scott said once the condemned structure gets torn down, the land is entirely cleared and becomes a more attractive location for new owners to invest in the property.
“Many of those lots where we’ve torn houses down now have new homes on the property with families in them,” Scott said. “To me that’s the truest success. Now you can drive past and there are people there living in it and getting the best use out of the property.”