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East Spencer taking action on abandoned properties

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

EAST SPENCER — A number of dilapidated houses in East Spencer haven’t been used in a decade or more, and the town has repeatedly reached out to property owners.

Now, East Spencer is ready to take action.

The town board has approved a plan to collect taxes and money owed for mowing overgrown properties. The town is working with Bryan Wymbs of Ketner and Dees Attorneys at Law in Salisbury to help track down absentee owners.

Interim Town Administrator F.E. Isenhour said the problem is costly.

“We are not being fair to the people who are paying,” Isenhour said. “The people who are paying their taxes are paying for the upkeep of these other properties.”

In many cases, the propertis have been passed down and the current owners just haven’t kept them up.

The list includes more than 30 properties, but the town will first focus on three. The town hopes the property owners or lien holders will take responsibility, pay the taxes owed and repay the town for mowing lawns. If the owners don’t come forward, the town will put the properties up for auction.

The town would present a bid equal to the amount of back taxes, government liens including mowing costs, and demolition costs. If there were no other bidders, the town would be responsible for the purchase of the property, paying the taxes and liens. The cost of the liens owed to the town would then be reimbursed to the town, and county tax payments would go to the county.

The first property the town has concerns about is at 815 Cedar St. The total amount of taxes owed is $14,724.19. Removal of the structure would cost $3,250 and mowing, $44.32. The total due to the county and town is $18,018.51, which does not include any unpaid mortgages and legal fees.

The owners of the Cedar Street property are listed as Harry Lee Witherspoon and Initra Garrett, according to Rowan County tax records. Their mailing address is listed in Delaware. Taxes have not been paid since 2006, records show.

The second property is the Dunbar Center at 820 S. Long St. The center was destroyed by fire in December 2014, but remnants of the structure remain. No cleanup has been done since the fire. The property is owned by Shady Grove Baptist Church, although in the past the church has not claimed the property.

Tax records show the church has owned the property since 2009 and has paid little in taxes in that time. No taxes were owed for five years. Taxes were not paid for the past two years. The amount of taxes owed is $9,946.50, and grass mowing totaled $32,000. The cost does not include any mortgages or legal fees.

Kory Welch is listed as the owner of the third property at 223 Robin Circle, which appears to have been in a dilapidated condition since about 2012. The taxes owed total $5,228.15. Removal of the structure would cost $3,230. No taxes have been paid since 2006.

“The idea is to get money out of it or get the lot turned over to some sort of housing. Two of the structures have to be torn down,” Isenhour said.

The town has contingency plan if it ends up with the properties, Isenhour said. That is to partner with the local housing authority, Salisbury Community Development Corp., Habitat for Humanity, a contractor or builder, or a similar entity to build houses on the lots.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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