Those of us who take good care of our houses and yards know that a single rundown property on an otherwise tidy street can turn a neighborhood upside down with worry in no time at all.
That’s because an errant property can quickly become a haven for drug dealers, a home for underage drinkers, a hub for vandals on the prowl for destruction.
People who live near such a property usually talk to each other, trade information and gain support for the view that the social contract of the neighborhood — you mow your lawn and I’ll mow mine — has been severed.
Often they seek help by reaching out to their civic associations, contacting their city councilmen, complaining to police and city agencies. Then, they wait for action.
Our cover story this week is an example of what can happen in even a very nice neighborhood when a vacant house becomes a magnet for mayhem.
Neighbors told us of impromptu parties in the backyard pool after fun-seekers tossed a little chlorine in the water and jumped right in. They said trespassers partied inside the house, tossed cement in the plumbing, punched out walls. Thieves walked away with the home’s copper plumbing.
For the last three to five years, neighbors had to live with the peace of their neighborhood shattered and their fears that someone would get hurt on the vacant property. Never mind their very real concerns that one bad apple can spoil their own home’s value.
The house in Normandy started off as a neighborhood nuisance and soon graduated to an eyesore. A fire in January left the structure such a safety hazard that the city plans to tear down what’s left, if the owner doesn’t do it himself. That’s the good news.
But we have to ask why the good people living around Normandy Road, and countless other residents around the city facing similar issues in their own neighborhoods, have to wait for years to get these problems resolved.
Why doesn’t common sense trump legal wrangling when it comes to vacant properties?
We urge the city to create a fast-track solution for nuisance properties. A neighborhood petition could set things in motion. From there, the local civic association could review the complaint and forward it to a city agency to say “Fix it up or we’ll tear it down.”
A vacant property owner is more likely to show a little concern for the neighbors when he or she sees a wrecking ball parked not far from the front door. ••