Vermin-infested eyesores have Georgetown residents angry

GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WCIV) - Abandoned houses in Georgetown are more than an eyesore for neighbors. Some are calling them rodent sanctuaries.

"When the wind blows on a warm day, you can smell the smell that comes from under here," said Gwendolyn White, who is disgusted with more than what's causing a stink coming from under her neighbor's home. "We started having trouble with cats living under the house, and snakes. I stood at my kitchen window and saw snakes crawling from under the house and over into my yard."

She said the structure has been empty - abandoned - for five years. During that time it's become infested with all kinds of vermin.

"I' m mad because it could cause our property value to go down," she said. "And I'm angry because the cats are always in my yard, on my porch. And they use my back yard as a bathroom, too. When I go to rake my yard, I'm stepping in cat mess."

Arthur Smith lives on the other side of the home. He used to maintain the lawn, but he's since given up.

"I think they should tear it down," he said.

The abandoned home is not an isolated incident in the west end of Georgetown. There are many more abandoned homes, including in the middle of the city's historic district. A house there has sat empty and dilapidated for a few years.

It has neighbors fed up.

Councilman Paige Sawyer says he has proof of unsightly houses; he has a binder full of them.

"I don't think the city has been aggressive enough in pursuing the property owner for taking care of their property," he said.

Sawyer said it's easy to find the property owner because of tax records. Currently, the city sends a certified letter. If the owner does not respond, they are taken to municipal court and slapped with a fine.

"Even if they pay the fine, it doesn't take care of the abandoned structure," he said.

Sawyer said the town has budgeted $75,000 to tear down several eyesores, but he says people won't pay to do it if the city picks up the tab.

"That's where a lien needs to be placed on the property so if and when it's ever sold, the city recoups its investment," Sawyer said.

For now, the neighbors are just watching their every step.

The city's planning department was asked for a comment but has not yet responded.