Columbiana cracks down on outstanding property abatements

Published 4:32 pm Thursday, May 15, 2014

By GINNY COOPER/Staff Writer

Columbiana—The City of Columbiana voted to hire Birmingham law firm Hand Arendall, LLC to handle outstanding property abatements in the city on May 6.

There are between 25 and 30 structures on the list that are a “blight to the community,” Columbiana Mayor Stancil Handley said, and though they have been on a list for several years there are “various reasons” the abatements never took place.

At the city council meeting on May 6, members voted to hire Hand Arendall, LLC to “design, manage and prosecute, on an as needed basis, the city of Columbiana’s dangerous buildings and unsafe structures,” according to documents.

“In the past an abatement would get started, but it would fall by the wayside and not get followed through. With Hand Arendall it will get followed through,” Handley said.

Handley, who declined to name the structures listed for abatement, said the aim of the abatements is to remove blighted areas from the city, which are dangerous and a “collection place for graffiti and unsafe activities.”

The abatement process has several steps, explained Hand Arendall attorney Kelly Fox.

The firm first provides preliminary notice of the abatements through certified mail as well as postings on the property, town hall, library and a published legal notice.

After a designated time from the preliminary notice, which varies according to the history of the property, the firm files a notice in probate court.

“After we file a notice in probate court, they have 50 days before a hearing in front of the city council,” Fox said.

During the hearing, property owners must be able to show they have the “time, money and resources” to solve the problem, and if the council agrees then they will reach a remediation agreement.

However, if the property owner fails to convince the council that they will be able to repair the property, the city can “decide to order the demolition of the property,” Fox said.

“In entering into a professional services agreement with Hand Arendall, LLC. we look forward to them assisting the city with the remediation of dangerous buildings, unsafe structures and other nuisances that are located within the city,” Handley said.