Condemned homes - - MICHELLE GWYNN JONES

The neighborhood of Summerly in Rosemeade two days after the rain stopped falling.

by Shannon Longneck

October, 2015 brought rain to South Carolina, leaving the state overwhelmed by flooding, the likes of which had not been seen in over a thousand years.  New Grace was hit hard and many areas throughout the county remain devastated.

At a meeting of Mayors and county representatives an announcement was made that three New Grace neighborhoods have officially been condemned. The damaged and vacant homes have been a haven for thieves who have taken the opportunity to remove plumbing fixtures from the structures and anything else that appears of value and survived the onslaught of water. “They removed the stone mantel from my fireplace and the tiles from the walls in my bathrooms,” said Rose Henderson, whose neighbor’s railing was taken from her front stoop.

The forty-two unit townhouse rental community of Graine Grove in Beaudeclaire was also condemned. The condemnation comes just two months before residents were scheduled to move in. “Fortunately we had not begun the finishing touches in October,” said developer Feliks Litvinov of Litvinov and Rakovsky Construction, “There was nothing to be salvaged, but there was also nothing worth looting.”

Eighty-two of the eighty-four homes in the neighborhood of Summerly in Rosemeade are among the condemned. The two houses not condemned were at the highest point of Summerly and suffered the least damage. The owners of those homes see the level of damage as both a blessing and a curse. Alan Grover said, “In order to get to my home I must drive by all the vacant ones. It’s not like I can sell the crap, who would buy it where it’s located?”

Unlike most residents who have been hoping to get back into their homes, one resident of Godfrey is angry that it has taken so long.  “There is basically nothing left of my home. I have known since the third day of rain when the water was up to my second floor that I would need to find a new place to live,” said Linda Smith whose backyard bordered the river.  “We have been left in limbo; waiting for the decision before we could make plans to move on.”

With the declaration of condemned finally being made, displaced homeowner will be entitled to more aid to relocate. “It is such a relief,” said Tammy Shide who has been living at her brother’s home with her husband and two youngest children.  “My two oldest children have been living with their friends. It will be nice to all be under the same roof again.” This reporter had a chance to check in with Heather Shide, their oldest child. “Yes, I miss living with my family, but I see them almost every day,” said  Heather. “Before I shared a room with my six-year-old sister, here I have my own room, with my own bathroom and there’s a heated pool. I’m glad we will be getting a new home, but I’m in no rush.”

All the schools in the district have reopened except for Susannah Elliott Elementary School in Herricks Bay. The residents of Herricks Bay will have to decide soon if a replacement school will be built or if the temporary rezoning will become permanent. When asked what she thought was best for her town Mayor Jessica Kolds could not express an opinion, “We will be putting it to a vote. My input on the decision is not without bias. I attended Susannah Elliott. It is hard to see it in its present condition.”

Road repairs are ahead of scheduled and only sixteen roads remain closed. “We have a formula to determine the order roads are fixed: how many people are affected, is there another access to the area and the level of difficulty – is it a simple road, does it need a damn, will it need a bridge,” said Booth Snider of Public Works.

A resident of Lisden, Herricks Bay, confronted the panel over their failure to make her home accessible.  Lisden disconnected from the mainland when the rising lake water took a two hundred foot stretch of land and three houses. “But Lisden used to be a peninsula on the lake and after the storm it was an island.  We can’t simply throw down some pavement. We have engineers studying the best way to go about it,” said  Mr. Snider. “Until then the families who have returned to their homes will have to rely on boats.”