East Florence residents upset over abandoned homes in neighborhood

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - East Florence residents said multiple dilapidated properties have been a danger and eyesore to their community. They said they have tried for years to get something done.

"We just want it to be taken care of," resident Mr. Gerald said.

Mr. Gerald has lived next door to one of the neglected and overgrown homes for the past four years. The home already has four notices, two being final notices.

Gerald said two years ago the neighborhood started bringing their concerns of the home to the county's attention, sending over a dozen letters to county officials about the burned and nearly-collapsed building,

Gerald said for the first time in the 27 years he's lived in his house, he now has a rat problem and believes it's because of the abandoned home next door.

"It's very hard for me to even have a barbeque in my backyard and then when my grandchildren come and they're playing over there by the fence, I'm concerned about whether a snake will come out or other rodents," Gerald said.

Gerald said neighbors have even witnessed homeless people squatting and suspect criminal activity goes on in the house.

"Sometime we would go there and the door would be open and then the following day the door would be closed so that was letting us know people was going out and in," Gerald said.

But that's not all who have ventured into the abandoned house. Gerald said what's most concerning is the children who play in the neighborhood and may not know better.

"A child's mind may tell them to go in there and we have had one of our neighbor's children go in there and that really upset us because we don't want nobody hurt," Gerald said.

We took the residents' concerns to Florence County Planning and Building Director, Shawn Brashear.

Brashear points out that it's not the county's intent to clean up abandon properties, it's the owner responsibility. Brashear said the county will even work with owners to help clean the property since it less expensive and overall "better for the community as a whole."

Still, Brashear said the biggest challenge is contacting the owners when it comes to property complaints.

"We don't ever get returns back from the owner, no response or anything and we'll search the web, do everything we can to try and locate that owner or try to talk to that owner," Brashear said.

Back in September, Brashear said an ordinance was passed that would allow the county to abate abandoned property. However, Brashear said the problem is the ordinance is not clear on the next legal step after an owner has received a final notice, making the process difficult and drawn-out.

"The community sees the postings on the properties, but they don't see the results and that's frustrating for them and it's also frustrating for staff, trying to get to the point where the property is cleaned up," Brashear said.

Brashear said last week he met with the county's attorney to figure a better outlined process in cleaning up nuisance properties.

"With the procedure known a least we can see a window… we know when that end date will be so um to acquire the funds that it's going to take to clean up the property and then be able to give the neighbors some idea, a better idea of when they can expect to see a change on a neighbor's property," Brashear said.

Earlier this month, Gerald did receive a letter from the county on the process of getting the property cleared and understands the process will take time. But after four years of living next to a neglected home, Gerald hopes that time will come soon.

"We did get a letter saying that it was in the lawyer's hand and it's going to take a little time, but we're wondering how long it will take so we're hoping gets done soon," Gerald said

Brashear said the process discussed with the lawyer states that after a final notice, the owner will receive one more notice of a court hearing before the county cleans up the property.

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