Officials eager for overdue removal of dilapidated property
By John Rech
A longtime West Memphis eyesore is back on the radar of the West Memphis City Council.
Issues around the abandoned and blighted 180-unit Mayfair Apartments wound through West Memphis City Hall and into council chambers for the next step in handling the condemnation and demolition of the complex last Thursday. Council members voted unanimously for the next step in the process.
“This is a 10-year saga in our ongoing attempt to rid Ward 4 of a blighted property,” said Mayor Bill Johnson. “This is one step in disposing of it. It is not the final step. It is a requirement before we can demolish the property.”
Councilor Lorraine Robinson has served Ward 4 in dealing with the issue the entire decade.
“I know a lot of people will be happy to hear of this,” said Robinson.
In June 2004, tenants received letters stating there was no money for repairs, and that a sale and improvements were imminent. Trash removal began piling. City sanitation workers had a hard time getting to the Dumpsters because of the pothole-laden parking lots. Tenants stopped paying rent and were taken to court. Housing and Urban Development in Little Rock became involved.
Ultimately, the complex was vacated and fenced off. At the time, Robinson explained in a television interview that ownership of the property had changed, creating a challenge for the city in identifying the owner and forcing a move in regards to the site.
“This resolution is going after the Mayfair Apartments again,” City Planning director Paul Luker told the council. “We talked about this in budget hearings for this year. We have reviewed our procedures and consulted with the City Attorney about some state statutes that, if we chose to, would allow us to take the buildings down. We could then force the sale of the property to recoup our demolition cost. What it amounts to is notifying anyone that might have something to do with the property.”
“We end up getting a priority cleanup lien on it,” said City Attorney David Peeples.
“This is not the final step — this is the next step,” said Johnson.
“What this is leading to is taking bids for property demolition,” added Luker. “Then we can consider razing the property. If we go to demolition and send the property owners a bill — and they pay it — then it would be fine. If they didn’t, then we may go with the procedure of forcing sale of the property.”
We’ve done title searches and sent notices to everybody,” said Peeples.
The mayor indicated this was a move the city was eager to make.
“This has been a sore spot for a long, long time,” he said.