The 23-year saga of the house at 3301 Cathryn Drive took a step toward resolution today in Superior Court Judge Bill Rumer’s courtroom.
Rumer ordered that work begin on assessing the property, testing for the extent of soil contamination, soil replacement and then demolition of the house to begin at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 7. Preliminary surveying and video documenting of conditions can begin immediately, he said.
“This is welcome news,” City Attorney Clifton Fay said after Thursday’s status hearing. “The city is finally getting some relief.”
Fay estimated that over the years, the city has spent more than half a million dollars in legal fees and engineering costs associated with the case.
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Neighbors who have shared the area with the eyesore for decades were understandably happy to hear the news.
“Oh, I’m thrilled to death, just thrilled to death!” said Charlotte Gunby, who lives across the street from the property. “After all these years I’m so excited!”
“Thank God,” said Greg Camp, whose house is next door to the property. “I’m just pleased that it’s finally happening. It’s been a long time coming.”
The saga started almost immediately after Dr. Kenneth Barngrover bought the property in 1991 and soon discovered problems with sewer and storm drain lines running beneath the house. He sued the city in 1993 after the house became uninhabitable and prevailed. Then Superior Court Judge Robert Johnston ordered the city to move the sewer lines and make any and all repairs necessary.
The original proposal, which was to move the sewer line completely off the property would have cost taxpayers about $11.5 million, but city engineers came up with a way to move the lines away from the house, but still on the property for less than $1 million.
Judge Johnston had retired at that point and the case moved to Judge Gil McBride, who approved the change.
Barngrover’s attorney James Patrick appealed McBride’s ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court, which heard the case in 2012. The high court unanimously upheld McBride’s ruling, setting the stage for the city to raze the house, which is far beyond redemption, and build a new one.
All that was keeping the bulldozers off the property was the absence of Rumer’s order allowing the city to move forward, which came today at about 2:20.