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City approves measure to demolish homes

The City of Greenville authorized the demolishment of 26 houses in the Baptist Hill and Methodist Hill neighborhoods during its Monday meeting, allowing the city to use funds from a federal grant to tear down those homes identified as dilapidated.

The council’s action means work – actual physical work – can begin on a project that actually started in 2007 when the city was approved a $250,000 Community Block Development Grant (CDBG). But several federal regulations had to be met, (such as determining a home’s historic significance, if any), before actions could be taken by the council.

No one spoke out against the resolution during a public hearing held prior to the council meeting.

James Herbert, who owns a home on Wimberly St. scheduled for demolition, said he had mixed emotions because the house was his mother’s and he grew up there.

“It hurts me,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of memories in that house.”

But Herbert, who lives in Fort Deposit, said he has tried to use the home for storage but anything placed in the house has been stolen.

“Every time I’d put something in there, it would go right out the back door,” he said.

Mayor Dexter McLendon said tearing down the homes would not only keep them from being used for illegal activities, but it would also clean up those areas of the community.

He also addressed what he said were “rumors” that the city was “making” people tear down these homes.

“We were not saying people had to tear down these homes no matter what,” he said. “But we were telling them they have to fix it up and get it up to code. We’re not forcing them to tear these down.”

Several of the homes initially identified for demolishing are being repaired, according to the city. At least eight owners have filed to either appeal the demolishment or purchased building permits to repair the home. Owners have six months to repair the homes, said McLendon.

“The ones who say they’re going to do it, they need to get it done,” he said. “It’s not fair for the people who live by these homes to have these houses in this shape.”

The city’s matching portion of the CDBG grant was $62,500. The grant was distributed through ADECA.

The houses also have to be tested to determine whether or not asbestos is present.

In the long run, removing the homes may help the city gain more funding from ADECA, said Leslie York with Roth, McHugh and Associates, grant management firm for the city.

“Generally, ADECA doesn’t like putting money into an area where the housing is dilapidated,” she said.