After vote to demolish “nuisance property,” owners ask for leniency


Both neighbors and city officials have been trying to track down the owners of a dilapidated home on Rison Avenue NE since mid-July, when Huntsville’s Department of Community Development began the nuisance notification process.

They had not had much luck locating anyone with legal responsibility for the home until Thursday evening when the city council voted to demolish the home and bill the property owner for the demolition costs.

Officials in the department of community development said they have received numerous complaints about the home.

Neighbors of the home have been trying to connect with the property owners in order to buy the land and clean it up themselves.

Maria Garcia and her husband have had their eyes on the corner lot ever since they moved here about a year ago.

Mrs. Garcia said she is concerned about random people squatting in the home and poison ivy that is encroaching on the bordering properties.

“We did a lot of spraying to try to kill the weeds, but it’s just not working,” Garcia said,

At Thursday’s council meeting, the home’s past and present owners showed up to make their cases to the council and the department of community development.

“It’s very convoluted, who owns this property,” said former owner of the home, John Todd, who said he lost the home to tax delinquency two years ago.

Todd said his finances have improved, that he “would like the property back,” and that he “would like to make it nice.”

After Todd’s plea, the council promptly voted unanimously to demolish the home.

The current owner — who bought the home from the state after Todd lost it — also showed up to make a last-minute plea.

Lakeya Fikes has made a career out of renovating dilapidated homes. — She bought the home on Rison last year, with hopes of fixing it up and eventually making it her family’s home.

Even though a contractor told the city that the structure itself has lost 90% of its value, Ms. Fikes wants another shot. — At the very least, she wants John Todd to have chance to renovate his home.

“I went away on a trip, and came back, and it was taken,” Todd said afterward. “I screwed up… …but I want it.”

WZDX reached out to several city officials on Thursday who said the last-minute pleas from owners of nuisance homes are common, but to grant leniency after months of failed communications would be unfair to the neighbors who have lobbied for its demolition.

“It’s kind of scary to my kids. They call it the haunted house,” Maria Garcia said. “We just want it fixed.”

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