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County retains ‘eyesore’ house for potential use of land

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The Center Grove area house has been empty for about a decade, and neighbors have watched as minor maintenance issues turned into bigger problems.

Now, the gutters are gone, the gutter boards are falling down, and the garage door looks like it’s about ready to cave in.

Whenever Bob Staley passes the house at Smith Valley and Peterman roads, he wishes the owner would either fix it up or tear it down.

The owner, Johnson County government, mows and does some maintenance, but tearing down the house is not a top priority.

The house at 4005 W. Smith Valley Road was purchased by the county in 2002 when Smith Valley Road was widened. During construction, the ranch house was used as a construction office for workers and then was used again during a later project to realign the intersection of Olive Branch and Morgantown roads.

The house has been vacant for about 10 years, and the county mows the lot a few times each summer and keeps pipes from freezing, Johnson County Highway Department director Luke Mastin said.

The county commissioners considered selling the property in 2009, but the county wants to keep the land in case it is needed for future road projects.

The house isn’t needed, and county officials occasionally discuss tearing it down. As of now, the county does not have an estimate of the cost of demolition and has no immediate plans to tear it down, Mastin said.

“It will be torn down at some point in the near future. When it will be or how much it will cost, we don’t know that,” Mastin said.

If the county isn’t going to sell the land, it should at least get rid of the house before it falls apart even more, Staley said. Local governments often prod property owners to clear up messy properties, so the county should be held to the same standards, he said.

“It just amazes me that they can just back-shelf it and not worry about it,” Staley said. “Why wait until it’s in the shape that some of the others are? Why let it become a total eyesore?”

The county spends about $5,000 per year to mow and winterize the house, but no other maintenance is being done, Mastin said. Over the years it has been vacant, the home has started to show signs of wear.

“It’s very difficult to keep a house in good shape when it’s not being lived in,” Mastin said.

The county will keep the property in case a new project on Smith Valley Road or at the nearby intersection is done in the future, Mastin said. If the county sold the land and then needed to buy more ground for a project later, the price would likely be higher, he said.

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