DeKalb County's fight against blight

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Several people cheered as a 4-unit building at Waverly Place was leveled buy demolition crews Friday morning.

"This is what social justice looks like," said Amy Medford, who, along with her husband, watched the demolition with their four children. "This is what it looks like when a community works together and works on behalf of a community that doesn't have a voice to get rid of blight and dangerous properties like this. It was a horrible place," said the Clarkston resident who lives near Waverly Place.

CEO Michael Thurmond said the four property owners who rented the units fail to comply with several code enforcement orders for years.

He applauded County Commissioners who funded efforts to eliminate abandoned and dilapidated buildings across the county but said there's still a lot more work to be done.

"This demolition should send a strong message to landlords and homeowners alike. We are not going to tolerate blight in this county. And we're definitely not going to tolerate people in vulnerable immigrant communities being targeted or discriminated against by property owners who just don't care," said Thurmond. "We are serious about this issue, but it's going to take some time and we need people to be patient as we go through the legal process to get property owners to comply and to get these buildings torn down," Thurmond added.

Residents and Community advocates said the building has been a safety hazard and an eyesore for several years.

"It's been like this for five years. There have been two fires here and it just seems like the owner got his insurance money and just left the rest for the county to deal with it," said Mohamed Najib, who lives nearby. "It looks like it's about to fall down and it looks horrible."

Many people were grateful to hear DeKalb County officials have finally completed legal steps necessary to seize the property and have it torn down.

"Immigrants in this community were not going to complain to government officials because many come from repressive countries where that is forbidden," said community advocate Samia Abdulle. "They became slaves to their circumstances and this really was the best they could do. It was all I could afford, but they deserve so much better than this."

Demolition is set for Friday morning.

"We are so appreciative to the county officials," said Abdullah, a wife, and mother of three.

"This lets us know that they believe this kind of light is no longer welcome and the property owners who leave buildings like this in our communities will be pursued and held accountable," said Abdulle, whose family emigrated from Somalia when she was just five years old.

CEO Michael Thurmond insists this is part of an ongoing commitment to fight blight in DeKalb County.

“This demolition is an example of the many tools DeKalb has used to improve health and safety by fighting blight," Michael Thurmond was quoted as saying in a statement issued to FOX 5 Mews hours before the scheduled demolition.

"Unsafe, dilapidated properties are unacceptable, and county officials are demolishing properties like Waverly Place," said Thurman, who outlined his commitment to fighting blight across the county.

In 2017:

  • 3,778 court summons issued
  • $252,103 fines collected
  • $3.8 million redirected to fight blight
  • Nearly 32,000 properties inspected
  • 19 single family homes demolished
  • 5,600 tons of debris removed from 3,600 miles of county roads
  • In August, the Magistrate’s Court Ordinance Division implemented a calendar to target dilapidated properties with numerous code citations once per month, allowing the county to take action on properties not returned to code per court order.
  • After additional funds were approved by the Board of Commissioners, Solicitor-General Donna Coleman-Stribling formed the Quality of Life Unit, which is responsible for the prosecution of all cases involving code violations, blight, nuisance and other issues plaguing communities.
  • DeKalb County Code Enforcement has participated in regular training, including training alongside the Solicitor-General’s office.