News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
SUNDAY, JUNE 17, 2007

David Lee, enforcement officer with the Department of Community Development, said he will investigate the apartment complex at 1502 Sherman St. S.E. for violating the city’s weed, junk and litter ordinance.
Daily photo by John Godbey
David Lee, enforcement officer with the Department of Community Development, said he will investigate the apartment complex at 1502 Sherman St. S.E. for violating the city’s weed, junk and litter ordinance.

dirty secret

Blight on historic Decatur street prompts complaints
Resident lands in jail for failing to clean up act

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

You have to wonder what Union General William Tecumseh Sherman would think if he camped at the Decatur street that honors him.

Would he see the Atlanta that forces under his command destroyed in 1864? Or, would he see Savannah, a city he reached during his march to the sea.

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Daily file photo by Jonathan Palmer
In February, the Department of Community Development warned John and Darlene Fuller about litter on their front porch.
Sherman Street Southeast is one of the oldest streets in Decatur. And, for the most part, homeowners have neatly manicured yards and pricey property. Think historic Savannah.

But like other places in the city, there’s also blight that has some residents worried about their property values and one homeowner in city jail because he failed to comply with a judge’s order to cleanup his property.

Somerville Road seems to be the dividing line on Sherman Street.

The street is in Councilman David Bolding’s District 2. Bolding said he has been receiving complaints about property in the area for about two years.

“Anytime I receive a complaint, I forward it to Community Development because that department is responsible for going after the landowners,” he said.

Bolding said there are a lot of good residents on Sherman Street who are concerned about their neighborhood.

“We’re doing what we can, but we need neighbors to get involved and put pressure on their neighbors,” Bolding said.

Callers to The Daily complained about a three-unit apartment at Sherman Street and Riverview Avenue and a home at 1504 Sherman St.

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Daily file photo by Jonathan Palmer
To avoid a citation and appearance in Municipal Court in February, John and Darlene Fuller cleaned their front porch and lawn.
The apartment unit has trash in the fenced backyard, vehicles parked on the grass, screen doors off that are lying against the building, a dryer on one of the back porches, exposed wires near the air conditioning units and decaying fascia boards.

According to Morgan County revenue records, Karen Hyatt and Juan Martin Villasenor own the property.

Don’t speak English

The operator said a telephone listing for them is disconnected. The Daily tried to talk with some of the occupants, but they said they did not speak English.

David Lee, the city’s code enforcement officer with the Department of Community
Development, said he has not received any complaints about the property.

As for doing routine inspections to make sure apartments meet city codes, he said, Decatur does not have a mechanism to do so.

“If we see something from a public street or right of way we would make note,” Lee said.

He said his office does not have the authority to request to look at the interior of a person’s apartment unless the renter files a complaint.

“People have a reasonable expectation of privacy,” he said. “The law doesn’t allow us to enter a person’s home without a warrant.”

The home at 1504 Sherman St. is owned by John and Darlene Fuller and is no stranger to city officials. After two warnings from officials, the Fullers cleaned their yard and front porch in February.

When The Daily visited Sherman Street on Wednesday, the porch once again had junk and an inoperable vehicle in the yard.

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Daily photo by John Godbey
On Wednesday, John and Darlene Fuller’s front porch was once again cluttered with litter, and David Lee of Community Development said he would investigate.
A man walking towards the home, who was later on the porch, asked a Daily photographer why he was taking pictures of his home.

A Daily reporter returned to the home on Thursday. The Fullers had cleaned their porch, leaving only a yard ornament of a man, a Confederate flag and a dog tied to the porch.

Someone had inflated tires on the vehicle in the yard and moved it a short distance.

In February, Mayor Don Kyle described the porch as looking like a yard-sale setup.

“That kind of front porch is specifically forbidden by the city’s ordinance covering junk, litter and weeds,” the mayor said.

Attempts to talk with the Fullers were unsuccessful.

In February, however, Darlene Fuller told The Daily they live on disability income and that her husband searches Decatur alleys for discarded items he deems salvageable.

“We usually don’t let it sit too long,” she said. “We don’t have the money to go to court or pay a fine.”

Decatur did not summon the Fullers to court in February because they cleaned their yard, city records show.

But another Sherman Street resident the city warned about blight on March 24, 2006, is in the city jail for failing to comply.

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Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Before the city could investigate, John and Darlene Fuller cleaned their front porch on Thursday, leaving a yard ornament of a black man, a Confederate flag and dog tied to the porch.
Lt. Chris Matthews said John Calvin Ferguson of 1514 Sherman St. is serving a 90-day jail sentence for failing to comply with Decatur’s weed and junk ordinance.

More than a year ago the city warned Ferguson that his property was an eyesore in violation of city laws.

Court records show that the city judge gave Ferguson probation, a seven-day sentence beginning May 7 and ordered him to pay a fine and court costs.

He failed to comply and had his probation revoked, Matthews said. Ferguson has been in the city jail since June 1, city records show.

Lee said Ferguson’s property is one of six on Sherman Street the city has received complaints about. Decatur has issued two of the homeowners violation notices.

As for the properties at 1502 and 1504 Sherman St., Lee said he would consider The Daily inquiries complaints and investigate.

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