One of the reasons I moved from Fort Worth to the country six years ago was to get away from situations like the rent house next door.
The landlord, who lived several blocks away, didn't keep up the house. It was the eyesore on an otherwise nice middle-class street. The house hadn't seen a coat of paint in years. The front yard was always overgrown. The landlord didn't seem to care.
He didn't seem to care to whom he rented, either. We endured a series of bad neighbors next door. The worst of them was a couple who turned out to be drug dealers.
Strange cars cruised by day and night. We were the neighborhood crime watch chairpersons, so we began jotting down the license plate numbers. One weekend while the people next door were gone, someone broke in and wrecked the place. They smashed the contents of the refrigerator on the floor and broke the windows. We talked to the police about it. They were watching our neighbors, too.
The rent house was on the corner, so anyone who came to see us had to drive by the place. We finally erected a tall fence between our driveway and the house next door, but that didn't stop our neighbors' cursing from sailing over the fence to our ears while we tried to relax in our backyard.
One time when we were on vacation, the tenants next door didn't pay their water bill and the city cut it off. They actually ran our water hose to their place and pulled it through their window. Our other next-door neighbor, who was taking care of our house for us, saw what was going on and yanked it out
One of the tenants came outside. “Oh, we're gonna pay them for the water,” she told him. They never did.
When we complained to the landlord, he always had an excuse. He was too old, he had been sick, his lawn mower wasn't working. When we told him we were erecting a fence between his house and ours, he got testy. His attitude was basically, “If you don't like it, leave.”
Finally, we did.
I tell this story because lots of people have told me their own "horror stories" about unkempt property near them and thanked me for highlighting the subject. But several others have taken me to task for last week's column and the anonymous photos we posted on the "Shame of Glen Rose" picture page. See the Letter to the Editor below; there are more comments posted on our Web site, www.yourglenrosetx.com, and on our Facebook page.
No names and no street addresses were disclosed, but some folks who owned the properties were still angry. They accused me of launching a "personal attack" of them (even though I didn't know who they were at the time). But I am glad to hear they are concerned about cleaning up the property and I would be happy to print "before" and "after" photos of the makeover. They are to be commended for stepping up and, again, I meant no personal attacks, which was why the photos were anonymous.
But I sure got some personal attacks and that's OK. It comes with the territory.
One of the people posting comments on our Web site said that Glen Rose has been “taken over by yuppy fools who think you are supposed to stick a house on every square inch of land around you and then wonder where did the country go?”
The real “shame of Glen Rose,” the writer went on to say, is that the town “got real greedy.” The writer then suggested I “go back to whatever snooty yuppy uptown city” I came from and “leave the country out here to us simple folks.”
Just for the record, I moved to this area from a neighborhood on the very un-snooty, un-yuppie east side of Fort Worth into a single-wide mobile home just over the county line in Bosque County. We lived in that for three years until we could save enough money to build a house. Even though the mobile home was out in the middle nowhere, it had skirting on it and a porch and we painted it and made sure it looked nice. And there wasn't even anyone to see it next door.
The Reporter has been running an online poll asking residents which city services are most important to them. As of Tuesday morning, the top response was code enforcement (40 percent), followed by street maintenance (30 percent), planning and zoning (20 percent) and promotion of tourist (10 percent). Water/wastewater and parks and recreation received no votes.
This indicates that people care about the condition of properties in Glen Rose and enforcement of city ordinances.
The Letter to the Editor raises a good point about offering help. Those who need help maintaining or cleaning up their properties can contact some of the local churches that assist homeowners, such as First United Methodist Church or Stonewater Church, or apply to have their property become a project for the annual Christmas in Action.
If you or someone you know needs assistance, please contact the Reporter at 254-897-2282 and we will be glad to hook you up with an organization that can help.
I certainly can understand elderly and disabled people having a difficult time keeping up their properties. But I can't understand having rusted cars, air conditioners, broken lawn mowers, sharp, rusty metal objects, jagged broken glass and garbage sitting around a property inside the city limits for others to see.
What about the property owners who keep up their places and follow the rules? Don't they have rights, too? Having lived next door to a rundown property for years, I can understand their stress.
So go ahead and shoot the messenger, once again, if you don't like the message. But rules are rules and those who don't follow them should be held accountable or the City of Glen Rose might as well take its ordinances and pile them in a big trash heap in front of Town Hall. And it won't have to even write itself a citation.
Kathryn Jones is editor of the Glen Rose Reporter.