City works to clean up through demolitions, lot clearings
Demolishing a dilapidated structure or clearing an overgrown lot is not an overnight process.
It is a process that takes about six months to a year from the time a property is identified to demolition.
Holly Swann, planning and zoning manager for the city of Bennettsville, said about 80 properties have been identified throughout the city. She also has a list of about 25, which need to have asbestos inspections done.
Officials follow the South Carolina state code and the international building codes.
"We want to let the citizens know we are actually trying to do things," Swann said. "Council did budget more in our budget for lot clearings and demolitions this year."
During the 2017-18 fiscal year, $15,000 was spent on lot cleanings and demolitions.
For 2018-19, $60,000 was budgeted for asbestos inspections, demolitions, and lot clearings.
The total budget for beautification, asbestos inspections, demolitions and lot clearings was $128,000.
City officials now are able to put the bill for the demolitions and lot clearings on a property owner's tax bill.
"Hopefully, it will encourage property owners to clean up their properties and keep them clean," Swann said. "We hope the new amped-up project will create a better quality of life for our citizens and encourage economic development."
The first step in demolishing a property starts with complaints from citizens or the authority of the building official.
If he has seen a property that is considered a health or safety hazard, he will contact the property owner by certified mail. In the notification, a building inspection meeting will be scheduled.
Once the hearing is held, the property owner is given a certain amount of time to fix the property or to have it demolished. If they choose not to fix the property, an order of demolition is filed with the clerk of court and served to the property owner.
The property owner will have 15 days to appeal to the city attorney or board of zoning and housing appeals, which is the city's quasi-judicial board.
Once the board hears the appeal, they will approve or deny it.
If the property owner doesn't appeal, Department of Health and Environmental Control inspections and permits are done along with the proper demolition contractor hired.
Then city officials can demolish the property, which will be charged to the property owner for all costs incurred.
In addition to the properties, city officials are also concentrating on entryways into Bennettsville.
With the addition of Beautify Bennettsville, more is being done to the city.
"This is something we have always done," she said. "We are able to do more now."
Swann added Beautify Bennettsville is going to have more cleanup days during the fiscal year.
City officials want to partner with other civic organizations and include cleanups as part of planned community activities. The next clean ups will be in the fall and winter.
The first Beautify Bennettsville clean up was June 2 with a lot of participation but city officials would like more to participate.
"We actually had one district where no one came to help," Swann said. "It is up to the citizens. We need everyone's help. We can't do it all on our own. We want to continue and encourage other groups to participate as well."