Summit officials set a countdown Tuesday for trustees of a church and heirs of a former businessman to clean up abandoned and uninhabitable buildings that have been declared a public buisance.
Councilmen unanimously voted at the conclusion of a public hearing to declare the buildings at 1109 Highway 51 and 1205 Meadville Street nuisances to public health due to their conditions.
The Highway 51 property is the former Mid-City Paint & Supply business, which has been shuttered for more than a decade and has fallen into disrepair. The Meadville Street property, owned by New Hope Baptist Church, has two houses, one of which has been boarded up and is vacant after it caught fire years ago and must be removed.
Carlton Lynn Moak, the son of former Mid-City owners the late Carlton R. and Betty Jean Moak, said the property remains in limbo until his parents’ estate is settled.
“This piece of property is well known to everybody,” Town Zoning Administrator Wayne Parker said. “It burned several years ago and we have hung around and waited for somebody to make a move down there and nobody did.”
Moak said he sent a crew to clean up around the business, which includes an overgrown parking lot with a massive hole, a brick house and a lumber yard in the back that caught fire in 2017.
Parker called that effort “a good start” but insufficient to remedy the situation.
“Kids have been playing around there,” Parker said, pointing to a rickety shed that he said was structurally unsound.
Parker said he believed the house could be restored with a lot of work, “but the rest of the problem is behind there” in the lumber yard.
“My primary concern are the children,” Councilman Joe Lewis said. “It’s a nuisance to the neighborhood and people have approached me.”
Mayor Percy Robinson was insistent that Moak quickly take action.
“I think the main thing we want to hear now is the time frame you want to clean this property up,” he told Moak. “I was over there this afternoon at 5 o’clock and I want to tell you something, I feel sorry for the neighbors who live over there. This is a catastrophe.”
Moak said he assured Parker the property would be cleaned up and restored.
“This ball is not going to be dropped,” he said, adding that he’s received a bid for the “complete cleanup,” including a new culvert and paving of the parking lot and debris removal.
“The back of it, the old wood frames, every bit of debris and all of that will be hauled off,” Moak said. “We intend to do what is necessary to take care of this problem and do it in an expeditious manner. I don’t want it hanging over my head, to be perfectly honest.”
Councilman Joe Lewis asked Moak about his plans for the property, but Moak was uncertain, mentioning the possibility of moving back into the house, establishing a new business or even turning the place into a youth center.
“I can’t tell you right now because it’s still tied up in the estate,” he said.
Town officials gave Moak 90 days to deal with the property or else it could face demolition, with the cost of that work attached to a tax lien.
As for the Meadville Street property, New Hope Baptist Church trustee Tyrone Taylor said a dispute among church leaders has gridlocked efforts to clean up the property.
Parker said the house was moved to the lot more than 25 years ago, caught fire and has been boarded up for more than a year.
“It doesn’t meet a code that anybody’s got in the State of Mississippi,” he said.
Taylor said he met with Parker and explained he had a problem with church leadership failing to act on the matter.
“We’re dealing with some issues internally. I’ve somewhat been thrown in the middle of it,” he said. “I have deep concerns about the property and its location and condition and that it’s across the street from a school.”
Robinson asked Taylor, “Would you agree with me that property is a nuisance?”
“It does have some bad looks to it,” Taylor said.
Robinson noted that the town abides by the International Building Code, which states that a building that has 60% of damage must be demolished.
“I don’t see where you’re going to be able to rehab it,” Robinson said.
Taylor asked for clarification.
“I’m saying we won’t allow you to rehab it,” Robinson said.
Town officials gave the church 60 days to comply with a demolition order.