Rats streamed out of a ruined home on Harrison Street in Bellmead this week as an excavator clawed into its charred wood siding.
Within 15 minutes, wrecking crews had leveled the house, which had burned months ago and had become a magnet for mischief. It was the first of many demolitions the city of Bellmead is planning in a citywide campaign to remove blight, re-establish neighborhood pride and improve property values, one lot at a time.
“Yay, the dopeheads are gone,” said Kathy Vohl, watching crews from Mosby’s Land Management Service demolish the house Wednesday at 4019 Harrison St. Her father lives next door to the burned house, and she said it had become a nuisance for him.
“People have hung out here, harassed my dad, staying up all hours of the night, revving engines and just having people going in and out at all hours,” Vohl said.
City Manager Yost Zakhary said the house on Harrison Street is one of seven homes the city has identified as properties in need of immediate demolition. Crews began working Thursday at a property on Campground Road while three other homes on Travis Street, one on San Jacinto Street, and one on Concord Road are on the short list.
Zakhary said the city agreed to a contract of about $46,000 with Mosby’s to demolish the seven houses, and dozens more could follow.
“For the long term, this is the best thing for the city,” he said. “We want to enhance our residential areas and we cannot continue to invest in their property when the property around them is deteriorating and is deteriorated.
The city is demolishing the structures with funding from the the Bellmead Economic Development Corp. The city’s building official, Gary Garner, said about 36 properties have been identified or tagged for immediate cleanup, but the city is working with property owners first. In the case of the Harrison Street house, a family member in Waxahachie told city officials to go ahead with the demolition.
“We are going through our city attorney and do background checks looking into any property liens on the property and it’s a lengthy process we have to go through,” Garner said. “This house on Harrison is our first house and it was going to be our No. 1 here, because it was a big safety concern.”
The structures up for demolitions have been red-tagged as dangerous by city inspectors, signaling that the owner must repair or raze the structure within 30 days or seek an extension from the city.
“We want to respect property rights and our preference would be that they do their own cleanup and sell the property or reinvest in another residential home,” Zakhary said. “If they don’t, we will protect the integrity of the entire neighborhood and we may file property liens against the owners.”
The city will bill the property owner for the demolition, and if the bill is not paid, a lien for that amount will be placed on the title for the property. The city can then acquire the property through the foreclosure process and then attempt to resell it. However, Zakhary said the Bellmead City Council has discussed the issue and made it clear that the intention is to clean up the city, not to acquire property.
“The city has no desire to own city lots or city housing,” Zakhary said.
Zakhary said city officials this week received several calls from neighbors thanking them for the cleanup.