Today we have a new twist on an old problem.
Every year, especially at this time of year, Inquirer Central gets calls and emails concerning someone who isn't taking proper care of their swimming pool. It's an eyesore and also a health hazard, breeding all manner of varmints, they say. And they breed mosquitoes, which, in addition to being a nuisance, can actually make you very sick and even kill you.
City code is very clear about the owners of pools (or any body of water) and their responsibility not to allow it to become such a hazard. The city can cite the owners and even file liens against the property should the city have to handle the cleanup itself.
Today's problem is: What happens when the pool and surrounding grounds are in just such a varmint-producing state, but the owner no longer exists? No, the pool's owner didn't die or disappear into the night. The pool was, and still is, owned by Leesburg Pool Club Inc., an entity established to take ownership of the pool when the developers of the subdivision built the pool and donated it to the community.
Never miss a local story.
(Developers must've been much nicer people back then.)
Anyway, a Concerned Reader named Leon tipped me off to the situation and put me in touch with Bland Riley, who was once an officer of the pool club.
"I was secretary-treasurer of the pool, then the vice president and president of the pool, but then everybody moved off and the pool closed," Riley said.
For the last 8-10 years, Riley said he's been paying the property taxes on the pool land, mowing the grass and keeping the pool pumped out to prevent mosquitoes. He was doing this with an eye toward getting the property, which he used to live beside.
"But I haven't (paid the taxes or cut the grass) for the last two years because they told me that I could not get the property and it would have to go through auction, on the steps of the courthouse," Riley said. "Well I told them, 'I've been keeping the grass cut and the pool pumped out and I've been paying the taxes and I can't get anything out of it?' So, I quit doing it. And it's a mosquito bed now. It's a shame."
Riley doesn't live next to the pool anymore, but his ex-wife still does and his grandchildren often visit.
"They get eaten up with mosquitoes."
He said if the property is auctioned for back taxes, he is considering bidding on it, but he's got another plan, too.
"I'm going to talk to a lawyer to see if I can put a lien on it for the taxes I've got in it. If I do that, I'll bid on it, because whoever else bids on it will have to pay me for about $10,000 that I've put in it."
I called City Attorney Clifton Fay and asked his opinion on the situation and Riley's options. Fay did agree that he should contact an attorney but one that specializes in real estate law.
"If they don't pay their taxes, it would eventually be foreclosed on by the tax commissioner, but that's a very long process," Fay said.
A better approach would be to contact a real estate lawyer and investigate who was the registered agent or officers of the defunct corporation. Through that approach he might be able to get the organization to give him a quit claim deed to the land.
"If the outfit doesn't exist, it may have reverted back to all the individual homeowners," Fay said. "I don't know; that's something they're going to have to explore."
Stay tuned. Meanwhile, if you toss some of those mosquito-killing cakes into the stagnant pool, it might help keep the critters off the grandkids.
-- Seen something that needs attention? Contact me at 706-571-8570 or firstname.lastname@example.org.