Residents call on new environmental court judge to help end blight

Residents call on new environmental court judge to help end blight

SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - There's a new man in charge of fighting blight in Memphis and Shelby County, and citizens are already lining up with a list of complaints.

There are more than 8,000 blighted properties across the City of Memphis.

Fox Hollow Condos in Parkway Village are among the worst. Those who live and work nearby plan to put pressure on the county's new Environmental Court judge to bring about change.

"I have been fighting this a long time, and the fight is still on today," community advocate Patricia Rogers said.

Rogers dreams of seeing Parkway Village prosper.  But properties like Fox Hollow, with its burned out, boarded up units and a growing trash heap out front, make that dream impossible.

"Well you have crime," Rogers said, "and you have drugs.  You have all kinds of things going on.  You have despair.  People lose hope."

She's talking about people like Dre Williams, who moved into the condo complex on Outland Road off Winchester 14 months ago

"We don't want to see this every day," Williams said.  "I mean, who wants to walk out of their house and see this every day?"

Nashid moved his family into Fox Hollow three months ago because it was affordable.  They rent a 3-bedroom, 2-and-a-half bath condo for $650 a month.  The condo's owner told Nashid there were big promises about a big clean-up coming from city and county officials.

But the only thing getting bigger is the pile of garbage at the front entrance, which is now a neighborhood dump.  Thieves tear boards off empty units to steal copper in the walls. Abandoned cars litter the parking lot.

The property looks abandoned until you look closer and realize a handful of families still live here.

"They need to do something about this to make it safe," Nashid said.  "These kids play out here and it's like officials don't care.  It just seems like they don't care."

Nashid, Rogers, and Williams are all looking to Patrick Dandridge to make it right.  Dandridge is Shelby County's new Environmental Court Judge, appointed by the Shelby County Commission a week ago.

The former city attorney and Deputy Director of Public Works was handpicked by retiring Judge Larry Potter, who founded the court 35 years ago.

"The caseload is getting heavier," said Potter, "and it's getting much more complicated.  But the court is in someone else's hands now.  And I believe those are good hands that will take care of it."

"It means the world to me," Dandridge said about Potter's support.  "Judge Potter created the court and perfected it.  He actually made it make a difference.  Prior to the court, we didn't have a specialty court just to deal with blight.  So that's tremendous."

When asked what citizens should do if they live in or near blighted properties, Dandridge replied, "I would say, don't give up."

With several years already invested in her blight battle and miles to go before its won, Rogers won't back down now.  If anything, she intends to put more pressure on the new judge.

"I'm going to hold those who are responsible, accountable for taking care of it," Rogers said. "We have got to get creative and find solutions to solve problems."

"Give us some time, and we're going to make a difference," Dandridge said. "Be patient, we are going to make a difference."

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