8 eyesores demolished in Brooklyn

Eight abandoned houses on Lancaster’s Starnes Street have been torn down through a state program aimed at eliminating community blight.
And no one is happier to see it than Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile. Starnes Street is off the east end of Brooklyn Avenue.
“That specific area has been a haven for all types of serious criminal activity, including murder,” Faile said, citing the 2012 strangulation death of Linda Massey Gaymon inside one of the houses. Last year, Terry Catoe was sentenced to life in prison for killing Gaymon.
“They’ve needed to go for a long time,” Faile said of the condemned homes, which have changed hands several times in the past five years at county tax sales.
“My hope is getting rid of these houses inspires a little more civic pride. It would be great if it becomes a catalyst for other community residents to do a little sprucing up of their property, too,” Faile said.
All that’s left where the Starnes Street houses stood is some scattered debris, a few pieces of tossed-aside furniture and a mountain of trash bags that will be picked up in the upcoming weeks.

<div class="source">GREG SUMMERS/The Lancaster News</div><div class="image-desc">A discarded easy chair half hidden by weeds and a pile of garbage are all that remains of the house that once stood on this empty lot on Starnes Street.</div><div class="buy-pic"><a href="/photo_select/63106">Buy this photo</a></div>

73 county properties
The houses were among 73 identified county properties that qualified for the state’s $5.6 million Neighborhood Initiative Program, administered by the S.C. Housing Finance and Development Authority.
The Catawba Regional Council of Governments (COG) facilitates the program in Lancaster, Chester, Union and York counties. South Carolina received the funding through the U.S. Treasury Department’s Hardest Hit Fund.
Thirty-four of the houses are in the county, 29 are in the city of Lancaster and 10 are in the town of Kershaw.
To qualify for the program and get the house demolished, property owners agree to sell their property to COG for the assessed value of the lot – not the structure.
Up to $30,000 is used to acquire a property, demolish the building on it, then grade the lot and plant grass.
The lots are then maintained according to local ordinances and eventually are placed on the market for sale.
After three years, if the lots haven’t sold, COG will sell each one to the county for $1.
“Zoning (county zoning) and the COG hit a home run with this one,” said County Administrator Steve Willis.
“As Hannibal used to say on ‘The A Team,’ ‘I love it when a plan comes together,’” Willis said.
Four more houses are set be torn down on the Midway side of the mill village through a separate grant.

By Greg Summers, Staff Reporter with The Lancaster News