Fire-damaged, abandoned home near Cumming step closer to being torn down

Two warped doors hang suspended from a rotted beam where the home’s second story once was, charred pieces of wood jaggedly framing what would have been an upstairs bathroom.

Those driving by the abandoned Crystal Cove Trail structure may expect to see the Wicked Witch of the East’s feet poking out from under the rubble, the location seemingly a scene from a tornado-damaged property.

Since a fire in April 2010 that significantly damaged the north Forsyth residence, the house has sat abandoned, filling with rainwater, insects and an up cropping of large, vines and plants – until now.

On Thursday, Aug. 1, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to initiate action that would allow the county to take interim civil action against the owner to mitigate the problem.

“Even if they don’t take action consistent with the court’s order, the county can come in and, just like we did with the Greenleaf subdivision, we can in fact mitigate it [ourselves] and then take the cost and attach them as a lien,” County Attorney Ken Jarrard said.

In November 2016, the BOC adopted a nuisance abatement ordinance after years of not having any way to deal with unsafe or abandoned structures.

The need for such an ordinance arose initially from discussions about what to do with the Greenleaf subdivision, an abandoned neighborhood that was never completed once construction stopped in 2006.

In April 2016, the subdivision was finally torn down, but only after the county filed several lawsuits, which Jarrard said at the time was “a fairly tortured process.”

Jarrard said while the Crystal Cove residence is not the only current nuisance, it is one of the worst examples.

“The bottom line is the county continues to receive complaints regarding the condition and the safety of this particular piece of property,” he said. “Code enforcement officers have gone out to visit the property and, based upon the site inspection, we have now had a formal report [written].

“This report is issued by code enforcement, our chief building official and our senior fire inspector. They have found that the structure is not only in a state of disrepair, but it is dilapidated and it is unsafe and a concern to public safety in the county.”

At Thursday’s meeting, the BOC could have put the homeowner on 30 days’ notice to mediate the problem, but Jarrard said he and staff thought that option would not result in quick action, which is what the home needs.

The structure sits almost directly against a neighboring home that is currently being lived in and is causing danger to the occupied house, officials said.

There is also a school bus stop on the corner of the property.

“I’ve been up to that area several times, and there are kids that walk that street and it’s not safe,” District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said.

Jarrard said he would do his best to expedite the process.

“We will attempt to press upon the court the very concerns that you’re hearing here,” he said. “Best case scenario, it’ll be 30-45 days out before we can have any mitigation.”