Montgomery Residents Accuse City of Demolishing Homes to Sidestep Eminent Domain Laws

The city has so far approved 42 buildings for demoliltion through its blight ordinances, Strange said, and has torn down 33 private homes and two apartment buildings. The numbers are up from 2009 when the council approved 29 demolitions and carried out 22, all on single family homes.

City Council Candidate's Family Home Goes Down With Photos, Furniture Still Inside

Jones, who is running for a seat on the city council, was heartbroken when her own family home was torn down in April.

"I was born in the house," she said of the white, three-bedroom, one bath home that once belonged to her grandparents.

After her grandmother's death in 1988, the house was willed to her heirs. Children, grandchildren, cousins, and uncles have all passed through that house, Jones said. Up until the day it was demolished, someone was almost always there.

Jones said the famiy got a notice from the city citing it for a porch in disrepair. They prepared to fix the porch and bought the materials, but were then sidelined by her father's shoulder surgery.

She said she had never once been threatened with demolition or received any type of paperwork on the subject. Then a neighbor called, frantic that the house was being ripped down. By the time Jones got there, half of the structure was gone.

She said she was unable to stop the crews from finishing the job. The house came down fully furnished, family photos and heirlooms still inside.

Jones charges that she found out after the fact that the city had sent letters -- to her dead grandmother and another relative that had already passed away. She was later fined $1,225.

Strange responded that Jones was never listed as the property's owner and that her family had plenty of warning. He cited the fact her father got a permit to fix the porch as evidence that the family knew the city considered the house blighted.

Walsh questioned whether the demolished properties were truly decripit.

"Some may be in disrepair, but some we've seen are perfectly fine," she said.

Strange said that most of the blighted properties have been reported by neighbors who say they don't want to look at the rundown houses anymore and are concerned about their own safety.

"(They're) an eyesore and vagrants end up in there. A lot of drugs wind up in there," the mayor said.

He insisted that no structure that had any historical significance had been torn down. And while Walsh charges that the city's likely plan is to acquire the land and sell it to developers who will construct higher-end buildings, Strange said the city's involvement with the houses they tear down ends when the last piece of rubble is carted away.

"Sell it, develop it," is what he hopes happens to the the vacant land, but said the landowners, not the city, would have to negotiate with the developers.

Several city council members did not return calls seeking comment.

Montgomery Attorney Calls on City Leaders to Pay Residents Fair Market Value for Demolished Homes

Montgomery attorney Norman Hurst, who has represented McCall and two others in various court cases and appeals related to the blight ordinance, blamed the city for letting such a historic area fall into disrepair and then decide to tear down people's homes instead of helping them to clean up their properties.

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