DENHAM SPRINGS - Condemning property has been a long and arduous process for the city's building inspector and attorney.
And it's not over yet.
Denham Springs took the next step toward taking care of blighted properties inside the city limits by establishing a 'Board of Housing Appeals' which will recognize any homeowners that wants to contest the process.
The city's ability to handle blighted properties is laid out in Article IX of State Law, specifically Revised Statute 33:4761.
However, there are pieces of the puzzle which require time and patience, according to building inspector Rick Foster and city attorney Stephanie Hulett. Specifically, communication with the home or property owner is key and takes tenacity.
"(The city would) rather the homeowner handle their business," Foster said, "this is supposed to be on an 'as needed' basis.
"(The city) has to be real careful and not move too quickly, because we don't want to infringe on property rights."
The process does not truly begin, according to Foster, until blighted properties are identified and recorded. From there, a survey is sent to the home or property owner requesting basic information, and a section wherein they describe their 'intention' with regard to the property.
Any governmental entity is required to send up to two surveys before declaring that the process can move forward. If any response is given, the city must adhere to any promises made within the communication.
"The city communicates with these homeowners and builds a file," Foster explained, "we have to have the paper trail."
Once the city determines that the home or property owner will comply with the request to repair or demolish the home; cuts communications; or does not communicate at all Foster can present that information to the council, with the recommendation that condemnation proceedings advance and structures on the property be demolished.
The city will pursue 10 properties at first, which were flooded in 2016 but did not incur remediation, as part of a list of almost 70 properties in the Denham Springs area.
Once the recommendation is made for condemnation, the city council must vote on each property, individually, at the request of the mayor. Before the meeting can take place the city must serve notice the property owner, no less than 10 days before the designated meeting, allowing the property owner a chance to appear before the city and defend themselves.
The council can then allow the owner, should they show at the meeting, to make repairs or demolish the home themselves. The home or property owners also have five days from the decision to appeal.
The Board of Housing Appeals was created Monday night, and would have five members who would hear the appeals for any properties which would be slated for condemning by the council.
The board has no terms and would be kept on an 'as needed' basis.
The first meeting of the Board of Housing Appeals will be Monday, Dec. 9 at 4 p.m. at City Hall. They will make determinations on the first 10 properties, which are:
- 711 Bowman
- 208 Hickory
- 712 Magnolia
- 8507 John Martin Ln.
- Forest St. Apartments
- 907 Bay St
- 1434 Clinton
- 8390 Rushing Rd (This is currently on the list of ten; however, it has already been demolished by the owner and will be removed)
- 376 Rushing Rd
- 2257 Riverview