Neglected yards raise safety and health concerns in Dothan

(WTVY News 4)
Published: Aug. 6, 2019 at 5:41 PM CDT
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There are dozens of abandoned and neglected homes in Dothan and Tuesday morning, the City Commission added another seven to the list. They're overgrown with weeds, scrub, and wild bushes.

"When I was growing up, everyone on my street owned their home. Everybody had flowers, trees, we all reached out to each other, we helped each other cut our grass. Those years are gone,” said resident Bridgette McCarter.

Bridgette McCarter grew up on Bell Street and lives near one overgrown property that she calls an eyesore.

"We have so many homes that are abandoned and homeless people are starting to gather there and that's because the homeowners aren’t keeping it up," said McCarter.

And some of the homeowners are landlords - "The homeowners that do not live in our community tend to not have the sense of urgency," said McCarter.

And fail to invest in their properties - "This is well in violation for what the ordinance is in the city," said Alan Sauders, Code Enforcement Inspector.

Sauders says summer is the busiest time of his year.

"I’ll get some that are like this and some that are 12 inches and some that are a little over and I’ll follow up on them and a lot of time property owners just haven't gotten to it yet," said Sauders.

Sauders checks dozens of complaints each week as they come through the city office. He opens a case if 30 percent of a yard is covered in weeds 12 inches or higher.

"If you don't have pride in your property, why not? This is your property, you are the one who owns it so take it and people come into the city and see these properties and wonder why we aren't taking care of it?" said Todd McDonald, Dothan's Planning Director.

McDonald says it just takes time.

"We send them a letter, look you need to fix this, clean this up, or we will proceed with abatement proceedings," said McDonald.

A total of six weeks. Once notified homeowners have ten days to clean up, after that they get billed.

If it's still in violation - a public hearing.

"We want you to cut your grass be a good citizen because what happens is when the grass grows up it becomes a harborage for rodents and snakes,” said McDonald.

"We live here, we play taxes, and we play utilities we just want the people around us to do the same thing," said McCarter.

This property is partially cleaned up, but to meet code, the yard still needs more work. The next hearing on that property is August 20th.