NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) - We all have those properties in our neighborhood where the grass gets too long or the paint gets too shabby but for some property owners in New Albany, the bad neighbors went way beyond that. Now the city is stepping in and aggressively dealing with the problem.
You'd be forgiven if you said Toni Keeton has a green thumb.
"People say that," said Keeton. "I think this is just real fertile soil here."
Maybe it's the earth, or maybe it's genetics.
"That was my grandfather's who was, he was born in 1902," she said, pointing to a plant on her porch.
The pride Keeton takes in her longtime New Albany home is right there for all to see, measured in flowers and spread with love.
"A lot of times the neighbors will have flowers that look like mine because I split them up and thin them out."
What you also used to see when you visited Keeton's Culbertson Avenue house was a blighted building down the road and one across the street.
"The back of it, they had windows broken and they had signs of squatters being in there and people just coming and going through that yard," Keeton said.
Keeton says neighbors had complained about them for years and it turns out someone was listening. Our news gathering partners at the News and Tribune report New Albany's building commissioner says the mayor has made it a focus to get rid of abandoned, rundown homes, tearing down 22 since May. Keeton's neighbors were so glad to see their eyesores disappear, someone captured the moment on their phone.
"We were all calling each other, 'Yay, it's coming down!' and high-fiving," she said.
Bad neighbors gone, Keeton can now fully enjoy her fulltime passion. "Every day I do something to it," she said of her garden.
The building commissioner says the city has spent almost $200,000 this year tearing down blighted properties, all of them deemed unsafe under state law. There are about ten more that Commissioner Dennis Brewer says are ready to come down as well.
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