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City acts to erase eyesore

LARGO — The dilapidated house looks like a strong wind could knock it over. It has broken windows, boarded-up doors and a jungle-like lawn with a shopping cart abandoned in a watery pit. It's on an otherwise well-kept street, where neighbors describe it as an endless source of rats, roaches, mosquitoes and feral cats.

The house at 3221 Hillsdale Ave. is probably the most blighted property in Largo. It has been racking up code enforcement fines for seven years, reaching a total of $160,000 — four times the property's assessed value at this point.

Its owner died three years ago. The property was remanded to his estate, but no survivors have stepped up to claim it.

Residents of a west Largo neighborhood near Indian Rocks Road are sick of it. Neighbors have taken it upon themselves to repeatedly mow and clean up the lot, trying to minimize the damage to their own property values.

At their urging, the city of Largo is finally and somewhat reluctantly foreclosing on the house, even though the laborious process could take a year and cost roughly $12,000 in legal fees.

It's a fairly drastic step for a city to take, said City Attorney Alan Zimmet. There is no bank to foreclose on the property because there is no mortgage.

Largo city commissioners voted last week to authorize the foreclosure, as nearly 20 neighborhood residents packed the commission chamber at City Hall.

"The place, from our cleanups, I can tell you is filled with roaches," said neighbor Charlane Lichatowich, who spoke on behalf of the neighborhood. "Two or three times the city has provided us with Dumpsters, which have been filled up with debris."

When neighbors recently passed around a petition calling for the foreclosure, she said, "It took two hours to get about 50 to 55 signatures."

After the homeowner, Jonathan Bresee, died in 2011, the city spent $1,650 to clean up the property, said Largo building official Bill Ondulich.

"Basically, I've exhausted all my legal remedies with the property, and it continues to this day to be a blight on the neighborhood," Ondulich said.

Assistant City Attorney Mary Hale warned that the foreclosure could take up to a year because the courts would require the city to do a due-diligence search for any heirs to Bresee's estate.

In the end, the city intends to demolish the house and put affordable housing on the lot.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151.

City acts to erase eyesore 03/11/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 3:26pm]
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