By ZOË WATKINS
How long before someone’s right to live how they want infringes on the rights of others?
This is a dilemma the Town of Normandy has been facing since 2018 with one of the distressed properties in town.
“This has been going for years, and we keep getting stonewalled on it,” said Normandy Mayor Charles Whitaker at the Oct. 9 Board of Mayor and Alderman work session.
One property in particular, on Division Street, has many neighbors and town officials calling for it to be condemned.
Mayor Whitaker explained there have been complaints of animal abuse, trash pilling up, no running water in the house, and even rats visibly jumping out of the home’s windows.
“We would like to move on with condemnation of the property at this point. I mean, the rats jumping out of the windows during the farmer’s market…This has got to stop,” he said.
“They’re not supposed to have dogs up there,” said Whitaker, who’s been in contact with Bedford County Animal Control after a dog was reported to have gotten its head stuck in a hole in the house’s exterior brick wall. The dog was reported to be ok.
“It’s not habitable for domestic animals or humans. There’s no running water. The place is squalid,” said Whitaker. City officials added during the meeting that the residents of the property allegedly live in vans parked on the front lawn.
“I’m not one to put anybody out on the streets,” said Laurie Raulston, who pastors the Methodist Church in Normandy. “But it’s an eyesore in the town, and it’s a hindrance to what we’ve been trying to promote here.
“It’s public health issue,” she added.
The uninhabitable environment of the house comes after officials with the town of Normandy led a clean-up day for the house to remove the piles of trash surrounding the home. But it proved invaluable in the long-run.
“We cleaned it up for them, but you see what kind of shape it’s in,” said Whitaker. “Yeah, we got a lean on the property. And, yeah, we can wait out the two years and eventually own the property. But I think we need to do something between now and then or we’re still going to be living with this in two years.”
Mayor Whitaker said he had called the county’s Zoning Office; they said they have heard of several complaints about the specific Division Street property.
“What I got was a whole lot of why we can’t do things instead of how we can do things,” said Whitaker. “We’re kind of on our own with that one, and we’re going to have to figure out what to do.”
Commissioner Scott Johnson, who was in attendance at the meeting, said, “The county rules on property—the county does not have a lot a rules because we have not adopted the County Powers Act, which allows you to act like a city.”
Whitaker said they will most likely have to take the property owners to court over the issue, but the board of alderman agreed that the property needs to be condemned.
“If we can get the help of the county courts, I think that’s going to be the best way to go,” said Whitaker.