Prince George's County demolishes abandoned homes

County officials say the new lifespan of eyesores will be cut significantly. Photo: Elvert Barnes via Creative Commons

Prince George’s County officials demolished an abandoned home Wednesday morning and more will be on the way out. This comes as leaders announce a 25-point agenda to address blight in the community.

County officials say the new lifespan of eyesores will be cut significantly. With their new plan, the goal is to improve the quality of neighborhoods and restore the value of existing homes.

Melissa Foster and Florine Campbell were once neighbors to an abandoned home on Hawthorne Street in Landover.

“We’ve had rodents and during the last snowfall, we had a homeless guy living on the second floor,” Foster says.

“I saw a raccoon go in there, an opossum,” says Campbell.

But five years of dark memories all came crashing down Wednesday as demolition crews moved in.

“I’m happy… because it means peaceful sleeping now,” Campbell says.

Prince George’s County officials used the home as an example of what’s to come as they improve property standards and code enforcement, all detailed in the agenda.

“When we give a 30-day notice to a newspaper of record, and a lot of times we can have those 30-day notices given, we can start that demolition process,” says Gary Cunningham of the Prince George’s County Department of Environmental Resources.

Before, the county relied on the court system to track delinquent homeowners and regulations on holding them accountable varied by jurisdiction. This led to a long list of condemned homes, attracting other problems.

“A vacant and blighted, abandoned house will bring down the property values of neighboring homes,” says Adam Ortiz, acting director of the Department of Environmental Resources.

County leaders say it’s time to hold people accountable and part of the revised plan includes stiffer penalties.

“When we issue the violation notice, people will know if you don’t get this corrected within 30 days you can get a $100 fine for it,” says Cunningham.

So far this year the county razed 40 properties and nearly 40 more sit on the demolition waiting list.

“If I have to steal one of these things right here and get to Columbia Park, I’m going to knock that home down for you,” says Andrea Harrison, Prince George’s County council chair.

So what will happen after the demolition? Right now, an idea being considered by the county is to have the adjacent neighbors purchase the property.