For over 20 years, Rebecca Lee has lived across from a run-down vacant house on West Fourth Street.
She has seen vagrants come and go, witnessed drug use in the backyard and watched as the house deteriorated a bit more each year. All the while, she has pleaded with elected officials to do something about it.
She said she has had enough.
Lee and her husband are putting their house up for sale this year, just as the city of Frederick is making progress in taking the two-story brick house at 20 W. Fourth St. from its owner, Allan M. Pickett.
"Good luck to whoever comes next," Lee said.
Pickett has owned the property since 1982, and it has been vacant since 1993. Code violations at the house began in 1996, and in 2002, the city declared the building a blighted, unsafe structure. That's when court cases regarding ownership rights and taxes on the property began. The city paid in 2011 to receive the most recent tax sale certificate for the property.
The city made headway in its efforts to take the property in March, when a Frederick County Circuit Court judge granted the city's request to foreclose the owner's right to redeem the house, giving the city ownership of the building.
But on June 4, Pickett filed an appeal on the decision, which will be heard by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. A court date has not yet been set.
Pickett did not return calls for comment, and he does not have an active attorney listed.
The city filed a motion July 15 to strike Pickett's appeal, claiming that Pickett filed the appeal too late, past the April 23 deadline.
If the appeals court upholds the local court's decision, the city will own the building. What happens then is up to the mayor and Board of Aldermen, said Scott Waxter, city attorney.
If the city acquires the house for good, it would be the only residential property the city owns, other than Housing Authority property, said Joe Adkins, the city's deputy director of planning.
Once the city has complete ownership, Mayor Randy McClement said, the first priority will be making the property safe.
The city will demolish at least the back of the building, according to court documents; an independent structural engineer the city hired in June found that portion of the building is unsafe and "in severe states of damage, deterioration and collapse."
From there, the city has many options for how to move forward, McClement said, all of which would come through the Board of Aldermen for a vote. It could rebuild the structure or sell it to someone else with a requirement of rebuilding it.
The city is trying to be as effective as it can in its attempt to take the building, he said.
Pickett "fights every little thing we do," he said.
Charles Woodson, who works in historic preservation and lives on Fourth Street, said the city should fix the building, or hire someone to do so, to "preserve the historic fabric of the home."
"There is so much potential, so many options, and so much you can do with a place like that," he said.
It is important for the city to preserve its neighborhoods, he said, so future generations can learn from them.
"It tells a story of Frederick itself," he said.
The building should have been torn down years ago, Lee said.
Lee and her husband have spent more than $90,000 to fix up their house, which was built in the early 1900s.
As they move to sell the house, Lee said she thinks the state of the property across the street will bring her property value down by $10,000 to $15,000.
"That thing makes this street look like a ghetto," she said. "It's hard to get a good price in a ghetto."
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