The home on U.S. 31 is abandoned and left open for animals to get inside.

Windows are cracked and the weeds grow tall, and neighbors have complained about the property multiple times.

The home, south of Franklin, is an eyesore, and the county would like to see something done with it. But officials don’t really have the authority to force anything to be done, planning director David Hittle said.

That home and other properties throughout the county are why officials want to create a rule that would allow the county to take action on abandoned or unkempt properties that could pose a safety risk, Hittle said.

Greenwood and Franklin already have such rules.

Currently, the county tries to convince owners to make repairs or at least board up unsafe properties. But what officials want is a rule that would allow the county to take action, including making repairs or even tearing down a building, and then fine the owner or put a levy on the property to try to recoup the costs, similar to what Franklin or Greenwood does, Hittle said.

Having the rule in place would have helped last year, when the county taxpayers had to pay for a fence around a pool that was not being maintained by the homeowner. The pool had become a health concern and a safety hazard, so the county put a fence around it and had to pay the costs, Hittle said.

With the proposed rule, the county would be able to recoup those costs, he said.

The county could also take action against the home on U.S. 31, and it would be one of the first properties on the county’s list, Hittle said.

“Without an ordinance like this, we don’t have anything to take action,” he said.

County officials had discussed a similar rule several years ago, but it was not approved because officials were concerned it would be used to require farm owners to tear down historic barns. But that is not the intention, Hittle said.

The county doesn’t want to get rid of old barns, which are a part of the look of a rural area, he said.

Instead, it would be focused mainly on homes, especially in neighborhoods, that residents raise concerns about because of safety issues, he said.

“That is not what this is about at all, it is about properties that are an imminent threat,” Hittle said.

Commissioner Ron West said he wants to know more information about the proposal, including how enforceable it is.

The county does not have many of these properties, and gets complaints on two or three per year, Hittle said.

And the intent is not to get involved in disputes between neighbors who don’t like the way a property looks, he said.

“This is for the most intense problems, legitimately unsafe structures, not just aesthetic issues,” he said.

Officials are still working out some details for the rules, including how much fines would be, he said.

The commissioners would need to approve the rules before they would go into effect.

Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2718.