Tampa Heights neighbors fed up with burned-out house

Tampa Heights neighbors fed up with burned-out house (Image 1)
Tampa Heights neighbors fed up with burned-out house (Image 1)

Thom Lewis says he’s tired of living next door to a burned-out home and makeshift dump in Tampa Heights.

From the front, the house is standing, although barely. There are piles of junk and furniture. And it has been this way for nearly six months.

“It affects the health and safety of everyone in the neighborhood,” Lewis said.

The house at 3605 Dartmouth Ave. has been a code enforcement problem for years, but it became a nightmare in December after it caught fire. The burned-out shell is not only an eyesore, but Lewis says it also attracts vandals and could be a danger. He wants one thing:

“The city needs to tear the house down,” Lewis said.

“If this were Hyde Park, this would not be allowed to sit here like this,” he said. “And that’s what really bothers me.”

He’s complained to authorities but says he gets no answers.

8 On Your Side checked with Sal Ruggiero, who is the operations manager of Tampa’s Neighborhood Enhancement Office. Ruggiero knows all about the troubled Dartmouth house. He said the city wants to tear down the house, but it has to follow the legal process. He said the typical process takes four to six months. The owner hasn’t responded to letters or fines. If the owner won’t demolish the house, the city will.

“I wish I could do something quicker, but I have to go by what the law is, and we have to observe property rights and give proper notice and wait for responses, and it’s time consuming,” Ruggiero said.

The city is in the process of doing one last title search. If there is not a new owner, the demolition will move forward in two weeks. It could take 30 to 45 days after that to remove the house. Ruggiero said.

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