Cooper-Young presses city officials for action on vacant building
UPDATE, AUG. 5: Mayor A C Wharton sent the following email to CYCA director Kristan Huntley and CYBA director Tamara Cook:
I just read the story about the above referenced building in the August
edition of The Lamplighter. My office will contact you on August 5. As a
matter of fact I am at this time taking pictures of the building .
I apologize for the difficulty you have faced in getting an acceptable
UPDATE, AUG. 1: Judge Larry Potter in the city’s Environmental Court will hear this case Sept. 5 at 10:30 a.m., according to attorney Steve Barlow.
UPDATE. AUG. 1: As this story was going to press, news came in that a new code enforcement officer had been hired by the city and assigned to the Cooper-Young area.
ORIGINAL STORY, JULY 31:
Neighborhood leaders are pleading to the mayor and city officials for action a derelict building on a prominent Cooper-Young corner.
Cooper-Young Community Association executive director Kristan Huntley said she gets calls from concerned residents every week concerning the dilapidated two-story commercial building at 2219 Young, at Cox Street. But despite more than a year of complaints and several letters, she’s seen no real action and gotten no response from several city officials. With the retirement in July of the code enforcement officer assigned to the area, she fears the neighborhood’s needs are being ignored.
“This is a quickly deteriorating property that is worrying neighbors due to risk of collapse, unsafe due to gaps in the fence that squatters could enter and in general, an eyesore,” Huntley wrote in a letter sent June 14 to City Council representatives Wanda Halbert, Myron Lowery, Janis Fullilove and Joe Brown.
The letter followed several discussions between Huntley and city code enforcement officers and months of requests to the Mayor’s Citizen Service Center. Complaints from residents go back two years.
But city council members did not respond to Huntley’s June 14 letter, or to a follow-up letter sent July 3, after the city’s budget sessions ended.
On July 18, Huntley sent another letter to Mayor A C Wharton asking for help. She has not received a response.
“I was honestly at a loss for what to do now that our traditional channels of having these problems address(ed) failed,” Huntley wrote to Wharton. “I am even more disappointed because our elected representatives did not even respond to our concerns. Can you please advise what could be our next steps in having this issue addressed by the City of Memphis before the building collapses?”
Neighbors say the building was once a contractor’s office, but it has been vacant for about a decade. Its roof has partially caved in, siding is falling off, weeds have overtaken the sidewalk, large tree limbs dangle over a neighboring property and an upstairs window remains open. In late July, a graffiti tag appeared and a tire was dumped in the yard.
“I have concerns about living next door to that nasty building,” said Jonathan Hill, whose home sits just 10 feet to the south. “My only concern about tearing it down is that it’s become somewhat of a wild animal sanctuary.”
In April 2012, city representatives placed Do Not Enter signs on the property, but no further work was done. More signs were placed on the door this summer.
Huntley said she contacted city Code Enforcement about the property in 2012 and was told by an officer that the property had been turned over to attorney Steve Barlow, who would bring the case before the city’s environmental court. Under the Neighborhood Preservation Act, the court could order the owners to demolish, rehabilitate or divest title in the property.
When Huntley followed up with Barlow in May to track progress, he said Code Enforcement had not turned the case over to him. He still doesn’t have authorization to work on the case, and the city’s condemnation department says they don’t have any information, either.
In the meantime, the property was put up for sale at a tax auction in September, but Huntley said she was told the sale was pulled because the city was unable to locate the owners.
And in early July, the Code Enforcement officer who had been assigned to the area retired, said Code Enforcement representative Cynthia Stevenson. She wasn’t sure who, if anyone, had taken over the case.
Stevenson pulled up records indicating that the owners had been sent a “no progress” letter June 26, giving them a “second chance” to make repairs to the property. But there was no deadline given for those repairs, she said, and she could not tell from the records to whom the letter was addressed.
The Shelby County Assessor’s website lists the owners as the estate of James F. Summerall and Sandra K. Alderson, with a Memphis address given. Earlier this year, a person who identified himself as Mr. Summerall cleaned out a truckload of tools from the building and told a neighbor the property had been broken into and several items taken.
In April, the city approved creation of a vacant property registry to stem the tide of blighted properties in Memphis. According to the ordinance, the city found that “vacant and abandoned properties can lead to a decline in property value, a corresponding decline in property tax revenue, create and attract nuisances and lead to a general decrease in neighborhood and community aesthetic.”
– LampLighter staff