Blight fight continues in Cooper-Young
By David Royer
You know the house — dark and empty, decrepit and worn down, tall grass hiding debris on the lawn or maybe residents who keep the music going late into the night. Maybe it’s next door, or down the block.
Spring is a time for cleaning and, in that spirit, the LampLighter is shining a light on efforts to keep Cooper-Young’s rows of bungalows tidy.
Amanda Ball, chairwoman of the Cooper-Young Community Association’s code awareness committee, is the front line in the campaign against blight in Cooper-Young. She keeps a binder full of correspondence with city officials and records on nine neighborhood properties and, while she can’t solve everyone’s problems, she tries to help where she can.
“The neighbors can’t just come to us and expect us to solve their problems. They have to do it themselves, and we can help them,” Ball said.
Since 2006, the Cooper-Young Community Association has lodged at least 74 complaints with the Mayor’s Citizen Service Center on behalf of neighbors. Ball said it helps individual homeowners to have the strength of the neighborhood association behind their request for help.
That constant effort from the neighborhood is having an impact — two Cooper-Young buildings are in the condemnation process, according to the city’s condemnation coordinator: 1879 Young Ave., which is awaiting demolition, and 2219 Young Ave., which is being addressed as a rehab.
Two more CY homes were included in a lawsuit filed by the city under the Neighborhood Preservation Act against 86 Memphis property owners as part of the Mayor’s Campaign to End Blight: 1915 Felix St. and 1064 Philadelphia St.
Properties included in the campaign are being brought before Shelby County Environmental Court where the City Attorney’s Office will attempt to force property owners to clean up, demolish or divest the title to the properties, according to the campaign’s website at http://memphistn.gov/blight.html.
Sherry Shaffer lives next door to one of the houses included in the city lawsuit and said she’s dealt with boarded windows, bugs, overgrown grass and construction Dumpsters for years. There was a toilet on the lawn at one point, she said, and she thinks it might be contributing to a rodent problem at her house.
“We’ve tried to sell our house and nobody’s gonna move next to that,” Shaffer said.
She began calling the Mayor’s Action Committee about two years ago, but credited recent efforts by Ball with getting the city to take more action.
Sometimes homeowners give up because of red tape, but Ball said they should be persistent. Resolution might take a year and requires numerous followup calls with whatever city or county office is handling the situation.
“It’s not that you have to be confrontational, but you have to draw your boundary,” Ball said.“I always tell people, the fact that people care is what makes Cooper-Young a great place to live, work and worship.”
Help keep Cooper-Young blight-free
- Determine whether the problem is a code issue (building in poor condition) or police issue (drug activity or squatters)
- Contact Mayor’s Citizen Service Center (576-6500 or on the home page at memphistn.gov) or Memphis Police, if necessary (545-2677)
- Follow up with the inspector or officer
- Don’t give up. If you need help, contact Amanda Ball at firstname.lastname@example.org.