After more than 20 years of legal wrangling and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, it took a little more than an hour for one man in an excavator to bring down the former home of Columbus physician Dr. Kenneth Barngrover.
The home at 3301 Cathryn Drive has been a vacant eyesore for more than 20 years as the legal fight between Barngrover and the city of Columbus drifted through the courts.
“Unfortunately the plaintiffs delayed the demolition process by appealing to the Georgia Supreme Court,” said City Attorney Clifton Fay, who has been fighting the case since he was assistant city attorney back in the early 1990s. “But the court said that the demolition should proceed and the neighbors are finally getting some welcome relief.”
The problem began in 1991, when Barngrover bought the property. Soon, he discovered there were problems with a sewer and storm drain system that ran under his house.
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Eventually, the house became uninhabitable and Barngrover sued the city. He prevailed, and Superior Court Judge Robert Johnston ordered the city to make any and all repairs necessary, and to repair the house to its original condition or replace it.
The original plan to repair the sewer and replace the house was going to cost taxpayers $11.5 million, but the city devised a way to do it for less than $1 million. Judge Johnston had since retired, and Judge Gil McBride approved the change in the court order in 2007. Barngrover appealed that ruling to the state Supreme Court, saying McBride had no standing to amend the earlier ruling.
The city prevailed and the courts ordered demolition to proceed.
The demolition of the 4,100-square-foot main house, a 2,000-square-foot guest house, a pool and pool house represents phase one of the property’s restoration, Fay said. Once the site is cleared, soil will be tested and replaced as needed and the faulty sewer and drainage system will be replaced. After that, a new house will be built, which will be the Barngrover’s to do with as he wishes.
Frank Lumpkin III, who has lived next door to the property for years, stood in the driveway with his dog Oreo and watched as the dilapidated house was razed.
“It’s a great day for the neighborhood,” Lumpkin said.