Poplar Bluff clearing out dilapidated homes

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KAIT) – Poplar Bluff City Planner Dennis Avery talked with Region 8 News Tuesday morning about the increasing number of dilapidated properties condemned by the Building Standards Board.

According to Avery, the city has demolished 101 properties over the last six years, when the city began cleaning properties by removal. He said several other properties have been purchased by the city in a flood buyout program.

"We've demolished quite a number of houses through our building standards board. That's the board where we review properties that are maybe not being maintained properly," said Avery.

Avery said several properties have been demolished because illegal activity would happen in vacant structures. Like other cities, police officers have been called to vacant properties for a number of crimes, such as drugs.

"We also have houses that may be used for inappropriate things. We have referrals that come from the police department where they have numerous complaints about unwanted activity in an area," said Avery. "We don't target one specific area. We try to spread our efforts around."

Avery provided Region 8 News with documentation Tuesday, which shows several properties demolished since 2009. The city also purchased one property in 2009 for the flood buyout. It purchased ten properties for flood buyout in 2010.

"A few of those tend to be absentee ownership, maybe the person lives out of town or they were an heir to a property that they don't really have a use for," said Avery. "When the houses come to a state of disrepair and detract from the neighborhood, that's when we will step in with the Building Standards Board and go through a fairly thorough process to get the property removed."

Avery said the city has spent $148,423 since 2008 on city demolitions. He said the program has been effective in cleaning up the city's image.

"We do our buff up the bluff, which is a city wide cleanup. We do that in the spring time, and also part of that we expect to spend the money on properties that aren't being maintained," said Avery. "We get a contractor approved so when we get into this process, we're not then saying, now we can do it, not it takes us six weeks to get a contract. We don't' want to do that. It takes long enough to get through the process anyway."

Avery said it can take up to a year to condemn a property and demolish it. He said many property owners live out of town and don't maintain their land.

"I think on most of the ones that we have demolished, there's no question they needed attention," said Avery. "We put a lien on the property and you don't have to pay it as long as you own the property. We prefer that you would."

Avery said before the city condemns a home, officials try to contact the property owner by certified mail, giving them at least a month to respond to requests for cleanup.

"We have people that don't respond and people that don't live here, and usually those take a longer period of time to get them to the point to where they can be repairs, removed or whatever," said Avery. "We have torn some down for people who live here in town, in another location, and just don't want anything to do with the properties."

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