DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ga. — It’s become a nightmare for residents of a Douglas County neighborhood – 24 hours a day.
The remains of a neighbor’s house on MacDuff Drive – nothing but a burned-out shell – have become a public safety hazard, residents say. And more than a year after the fire that tore through it, the county hasn’t been able to get the absentee owners to tear it down.
One of the neighbors, Ramona Hardy, posted photos to our 11Alive Facebook page pleading for help.
Another neighbor, Judy Kerr, also wants to know what it will take for the county to enforce the law.
“There are children around here, we’ve witnessed children playing in this rubble, here,” Kerr said.
Fire destroyed the house in December 2017. But the remains have sat untouched since then.
“It’s very frustrating,” Kerr said. She lives across the street from the house.
“I look out my window and that’s what I see,” and she gestured to the gutted home.
Kerr has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years. The armload of county code enforcement records she has obtained tells the story of Douglas County issuing orders to tear the dilapidated house down – including an order issued a year ago to the woman who owned the house when it burned, and another order, this past October, to the new owner.
“But there’s nothing in here to show why it wasn’t done,” she said.
The man who bought the property last summer is Lee Powers, a contractor and a Carroll County commissioner. Powers moved a Bobcat to the site last month, but told 11Alive that bad weather has stalled his demolition.
“It’s just simply been the rainiest season that Georgia has ever had,” Powers explained over the phone.
“As soon as it’s dry, and soon as this rain gets out of here,” he promised. "Yes, I'm looking forward to getting that house demo'd, and getting that lot cleaned up, and making it beautiful for that neighborhood. I sure am."
In the meantime, though, John Howell, who owns the home next door, worries that Powers and the county could be putting lives at risk with the delays.
“We don’t know what’s left holding the house up,” Howell said. “One child gets in there and something happens, and, you know, it’s going to be a disaster.... And for the owner, I don’t understand how you could even take that liability on.... Just hope that nobody's in there or any kids are in there playing."
Other local governments in metro Atlanta, specifically DeKalb County and the City of Atlanta, now boast about streamlined code enforcement, stating that they are tearing down derelict properties at a record pace.
But that’s yet to happen on MacDuff Drive in Douglas County.
Late Thursday, a Douglas County spokesman emailed 11Alive: "A summons has been issued [for the property owner] for a tentative court date of May 1st in Magistrate Court. Due to its potential legal matters, we believe it's not appropriate to make any further comments at this time."