By William C. Singleton III
The city of Vestavia Hills has been on a tear ridding itself of unsafe and blighted houses in its community.
Since the City Council last January strengthened an ordinance to make it easier to remove unsafe structures, the city has seen 11 homes torn down because of blighted or unsafe conditions.
The city has demolished only one of those homes with the others having been removed by property owners, said Keith Blanton, building official for the city of Vestavia Hills.
The city has been successful in getting six homes repaired rather than removed, and at least nine others are “still active,” meaning the city has identified them as properties that need to be fixed up or removed.
“We don’t have it all cleaned up, but we feel like we’re continuing to move forward,” said Vestavia Hills Mayor Alberto “Butch” Zaragoza.
The council enacted the city’s dangerous buildings and unsafe structures ordinance as a result of the April 27, 2011 storms that left many damaged homes across central Alabama and in Vestavia Hills’ Cahaba Heights section.
City officials said many residents have worked diligently to repair their homes. However, some residents have let their damaged homes languish to become eyesores to their neighborhoods and communities and to become potential magnets for varmints and vagrants.
“Your council was extremely patient. And before they adopted this program, they tried to work for a year following the tornado to be sure people were working with their insurance companies (to restore their homes),” said Ben Goldman, an attorney representing the city in condemnation and removal of unsafe, blighted structures. “These are really the exceptions that after a year plus following the tornadoes haven’t been remediated.”
Goldman displayed a list of those properties with before-and-after pictures at a recent council meeting.
Goldman noted that the building inspections department, particularly Blanton, has done a good job getting homeowners to clean their properties and restore their homes.
In cases where homes have been torn down and removed, the lots have been prepared for construction of another home.
“All the lots you’ll see are ready to go and to be put back to use,” Goldman said. “They are shovel-ready. Vestavia is an inviting place, and we want people to come and put these lots back to use.”