County Looking To Keep Track Of Problem Properties

SNOW HILL – A smoother, faster county process for handling nuisance abatement on unkempt properties could be on its way in response to increasing complaints over abandoned properties, according to informal discussions during the Worcester County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday.

“I’ve noticed particularly in my district where more and more properties are beginning to look like this mainly because of foreclosures, short sales, people abandoning their property,” said Commissioner Bud Church.

Worcester County needs to change its nuisance abatement process to allow faster action on nuisance properties, Church urged Tuesday.

The current legal nuisance abatement process for properties with unsightly problems, like uncontrolled vegetation and often garbage or vehicles dumped in the yard, can take months if not longer.

If a property owner does not respond after repeated notifications to clean up the property, only then can the county step in and clean up the site. A bill is then sent to the property owner.

Ed Tudor, director of Development Review and Permitting, said that he would look at the matter after the draft subdivision code, draft rezoning code and new zoning maps are complete and approved by the County Commissioners.

“The problem we have with this, this year is crazy,” Tudor acknowledged.

Church described a $1.6 million property, abandoned by the owner, which is now occupied, he said, by vagrants, with an overgrown yard where neighbors are parking vehicles and dumping items. He has spent a week trying to find the owners of that property, Church said, with no success.

The county has the same problem. Staff is attempting to find the owners of some of these abandoned, unkempt properties, but have not had much luck, Tudor said.

According to Tudor, often the only address that can be found for the owner is that of the property itself.

“We can’t find the owners, we can’t find who’s holding the mortgage,” said Tudor. 

“It’s almost impossible,” said Church.

“Who’s responsible? Where do we go?” Tudor said.

The problem has to be addressed, Church said, acknowledging the frustration involved when the paper trail comes up empty.

Commissioner Judy Boggs said the county owes it to the community residents to get to the bottom of it.

“I think we owe it to the neighbors,” said Boggs.