A blue house with pink trim sits on the corner of Northeast Fourth Street and 13th Avenue in Gainesville’s Duckpond neighborhood.
A plywood board is nailed to the front window. A code violation notice from December clings to the front door. It reads, “to correct conditions found to be detrimental to public health, safety or welfare of the people of the city.”
Because of the neglect to the home, Duckpond residents are voicing their concerns about historic-home maintenance to members of Gainesville City Commission.
Specifically, residents are speaking with commissioners to create new mechanisms that would give code enforcement greater leverage on citing homes of concern. They have also discussed processes that would allow the city to foreclose and reclaim ownership of neglected homes with the goal to keep Gainesville’s urban communities intact, Gainesville realtor Michelle Hazen said.
Establishing minimum standards for maintenance of windows, roofing, wood and lawn care would enhance and protect historic neighborhoods, Hazen said.
“The lots are very close together,” she said, “and so you’re really infringing on your neighbor’s rights when you’re not maintaining the property.”
The owner of the blue home has brought the property back into compliance for each citation it has received over the 12-plus years it has been vacant. If the homeowner addresses each code violation within 30 days of receiving the notice, the commission will not intervene further, city spokesman Robert Woods said. But the home’s many citations for overgrown grass barely scratch the surface of neighbors’ concerns.
Neighbor Peter Rudnytsky said he has seen critters crawl into the attic and a homeless person sleeping by the house.
“When (the residents of the house) left, they literally just walked out with the dirty dishes in the window sill and literally just abandoned the entire property,” he said. “Some of that is visible from the street.”
At one point, the garage roof collapsed, and the repair crew discovered rattlesnakes in the house, Rudnytsky said.
Such neglect has signaled a need for stronger code enforcements and minimum maintenance standards to prevent the rot of more homes in the Gainesville area, he added.
Duckpond resident Jane Kaufman said she called the health department over concerns about the wildlife living in the home.
“There’s a door where the bottom panel of it has slid down so you can see into the house,” she said.
Neighbors are not legally permitted to fix anything on the property without the owners’ permission. But some neighbors have offered to purchase the home, Kaufman said, and others have expressed interest in renting it. But the owners haven’t yet spoken with anyone about it.
Kaufman said it’s ironic that Duckpond residents have to abide by historic guidelines when they remodel their homes, but they have to live by homes that are allowed to fall apart.
Hazen said she hopes the meetings between the Duckpond residents and the city commission will form a middle ground between property rights and the requirements and wishes of residents.
“I just hope that Gainesville gets to be a wonderful little city,” she said. “Sure is a great place to live.”