Ardmore to hold hearings on dilapidated housing, deals with overgrown trees

Drew Butler
News alert

The Code Enforcement department for the City of Ardmore has scheduled two demolition hearings for the near future. Seven houses are on the agenda for a meeting set for October 27, and an additional 13 houses are on the agenda for a meeting set for November 12.

Community Development Director Jessica Scott said during the fall and winter, code enforcement pays special attention to dilapidated houses.

“As the weeds and grass begin to slow down, we begin to focus on some of our dilapidated houses,” Scott said. “As the foliage begins to disappear it gives us a better view of the structures and sometimes things you didn’t even see before come to light.”

Scott pointed out that just because these 20 homes are on the demolition hearing list, they might not necessarily end up getting torn down.

“This is a time for the owner to get together with the city to come up with a plan for the property,” she said. “Just because it comes on the demo list doesn’t mean we’re automatically going to tear it down. Instead, it’s an opportunity for the property owner to say `I want to tear it down myself' or 'I want to repair the property and I need this much time to do it'.”

Scott said about 50% of the property owners show up to the demolition hearings. Those that do not are typically out of state and no longer have interest in the property or are deceased and have heirs who do not want to deal with it.

In those cases the city will tear the structure down and a lien will be placed on the property taxes of the home. If the tax is not paid, the county will eventually sell the location to cover the cost.

Scott said sometimes the owners ask the city to tear it down because it is often less expensive for the city to take care of it. Because the city bids out multiple properties to be demolished at the same time, they can get a better deal on the cost.

“Sometimes people tell us they cannot afford to cover the demolition on their own,” Scott said. “So the city will tear it down, and they have six months to pay us back before a lien goes onto the property.”

She said the ultimate goal of the hearings is to work with people and help the neighborhoods where these houses are located.

“We’re all about the best possible outcome for these neighborhoods, and one dilapidated house brings down the whole neighborhood,” Scott said. “A vacant house becomes an attractive nuisance, and that’s when vagrants come in. Now that it’s getting colder, that’s when we get squatters who come in and start fires trying to keep warm, and that’s dangerous for everyone.”

In addition to focusing on condemned housing, Scott said code enforcement is also busy working on notifying property owners about overgrown tree branches hanging over city streets and sidewalks. Tree limbs must be at least 13.5 feet over the street and 8 feet over the sidewalk — or in places where there is no sidewalk, where the sidewalk would be located.

“We’ve got a lot of complaints lately about trees hanging over the right of way,” Scott said. “Our ordinance is really in place for school busses, fire trucks and trash trucks, but lately some of the branches are so low people in big trucks and SUVs are beginning to complain.”

Scott said her department has recently created flyers to distribute to houses that have the low branches, and she encourages everyone to examine their tree limbs to see if they are a problem. Owners found in violation by code enforcement will receive a letter in the mail outlining the problem along with a sign in their yard. They then have 10 days to correct the problem or notify the city to ask for more time before the city takes care of the issue and sends a bill.