The East Ridge Housing Commission met Monday night at City Hall without its Chairman, Eddie Phillips.
In a letter dated May 7, Phillips wrote that he was too busy serving in various public safety positions – including mutual aid, secretary of the county’s 911 board and as Director of the Southeastern & International Association of Fire Chiefs – to continue with his responsibilities with the housing commission.
In the letter addressed to City Manager J. Scott Miller, Phillips wrote that he also intended to resign from the East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority, prior to it being dissolved. The resignation letter was apparently written on the same day in which the ERHRA held a community meeting in which hundreds of concerned citizens showed up to protest the prospect of eminent domain being exercised on their homes.
“My hope is that the city will continue to try to address abandoned, boarded up, and unsafe properties that impact the beauty, value and safety of our communities,” Phillips wrote in the letter.
In Phillips’ absence, housing commission Vice-Chairman Jim Winters ran the meeting that had three items on the agenda. Commissioner Travis Olinger was not in attendance at the meeting.
The housing commission received an update on the demolition of an abandoned building at the Sweetbay Apartment complex on Fountain Avenue. The owners have been working with the commission for several months on addressing the crumbling structure. A representative of Lexington Asset Management, the owners of the complex, said that financing is being sought for the demo work. He anticipated moving forward with demolition by the middle of June.
The owners of Sweetbay intend to build a new unit on the site.
Ronald Johnson, the owner of a condemned house at 3412 Bennett Rd., was appealing an order to have his house razed.
Code enforcement officials told the board that the foundation was crumbling, the porches were falling off the house, there was an accumulation of rubbish on the property and that the structure was a fire hazard.
Johnson, who is in ill health, appeared with his two sons. The family has been living in a motel since the city condemned the home. The Johnson family told the board it has lined up a contractor to help bring the structure back up to code. Johnson had lived in the home for 30 years, he said. The Johnsons have already bought $4,000 in materials to address rehabbing the house.
Vice-Chairman Winters said that the house needed extensive work and that it was “going to take more than two guys” to address the multiple problems the structure has. The board granted the Johnson family 30 days in which to obtain an engineering report on the integrity of the homes foundation. The Johnsons were told to appear befor the board at its June 11 meeting to give an update.
Ora Powell was asking the housing commission for an extra six months to clean up her property at 1603 South Seminole Drive.
Codes enforcement official Charley Ritchie told the board that there have been complaints of “squatters” living in the house. The house has been unsecured and its swimming pool is brimming with stagnant water. Inside, “the house is full to the brim with everything you can think of,” Ritchie said. The yard is completely overgrown and codes enforcement officials had a difficult time getting to the front porch.
Powell, who lives in a house next door on the 17-acre site, was represented by her son, Trevor Mercer. Mercer told the board that the house was secured before people broke inside. Those people relieved his mother of antiques that were being stored there.
Mercer said that he is in the process of cleaning up the property in which he was raised. He said he drained the pool of stagnant water and that recent rainwater has accumulated in the pool. Mercer, who lives in Hixson and travels in his work, said it may take him six months to get the property back in order.
Helen Lackey, who has lived across the street from Powell for 58 years, told the board that the homeowner had always neglected the property. She noted that a trailer has been on the property for 50 years and has never been moved.
According to Lackey, she spoke with Powell about the condition of her property. Lackey said that Powell responded, “I was raised in a junkyard. This doesn’t bother me.”
Another neighbor told the board that the pool was a breeding ground for mosquitoes that made the area unpleasant in which to live.
The board asked that Mercer put a cover over the pool and continue with the clean-up of the property. Mercer was ordered to return on June 11 and give a progress report to the board.