RICHMOND, Va. -- After a half-century, Louise Johnson and her husband have no plans to move from Richmond’s Southside.
“The neighborhood has been wonderful. Quiet like we’ve always enjoyed,” Mrs. Johnson explained. “We just feel blessed to have been able to stay here that many years and be alive.”
However, within the last four years, the vegetation continues to outgrow two properties next door on Ridgemont Road. The Johnson’s property sits sandwiched between two homes with overgrown grass and trees.
“It’s really been a strain for me and my husband,” she stated. “It’s growing even faster now, and this is just the beginning of May. You have all of these summer months.”
The property to their left has a forest for a back and front yard. The property on their right has an orange condemned sign posted on the front door with a hole in the roof.
Each spring, the Johnsons reach out to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers because their neighbor's property becomes consumed with overgrown vegetation. Often a Good Samaritan will cut the grass, but the existing problems are never resolved.
Kevin Vonck, the city’s Acting Director for the Department of Planning and Development Review, said his employees issued an unsafe notice to the property with the damaged roof in August.
The city feared the home could collapse.
“We are making preparations to enter that into our demolition program,” Vonck said.
But here's the issue: the owners of both properties died years ago.
By law, the city is required to make a good faith effort to contact any property owners of family members associated with the blighted properties.
“If you do have a property owner that is deceased and maybe doesn’t have a will or there are no documents in place to transfer the property, then these are the cases where it gets sticky,” Vonck explained.
The city attempts to exhaust all efforts to remedy the solution and have the property owner come to compliance with any reported issues. Taking over the property or issuing a summons is seen as a last resort.
Vonck urges Richmonders to file a complaint with RVA 311 if you may live near an unkempt property.
“A number of these problems may involve different departments and it really helps us to track these cases and assign people and take action,” Vonck said.
The city planned to send a third-party contractor to cut the overgrown grass next door to the Johnsons. But the couple in their late 80s fear the issues will happen again next year.
“Something needs to be done and it needs to be done right away,” she said.