'Took too long': Officials demolish one of many blighted properties in South DeKalb

A pink track loader and its driver sits on the site before demolition begins. (DorMiya Vance/WABE)

Officials in DeKalb County say they are increasing their efforts in code enforcement and compliance in the southern, unincorporated portion of the county.

The county’s CEO, Michael Thurmond, and several other officials met in Gresham Park Tuesday to demolish a blighted condominium within the Whitehall Forest neighborhood.

Alan Mitchell (left), DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond (center), and Commissioner Larry Johnson (right). (DorMiya Vance/WABE)

“This is number 602 ..mitigated and demolished blighted units in DeKalb county,” Thurmond said.

Construction workers on a pink track loader bulldozed what was once the Whitehall Forest Condominiums. The four-unit building, according to those familiar with the neighborhood, was set on fire in 2021.

The demolition was a way for DeKalb officials to address the backlog of code violations in South DeKalb. The backlog results from a “disjointed system,” according to DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson. 

The remnants of the Whitehall Forest Condominiums. (DorMiya Vance/WABE)

But residents in the neighborhood, such as five year resident Richard Harper, felt that the demolition of the site “took too long.”

“It’s just been a problem on our side of the house, so we called and called all these city officials that are here now,” Harper said. “But it took us almost two years just to get them to come out here.”

The lengthy time between when reports are made and when they are addressed is all too familiar to residents and the county’s officials. Commissioner Johnson says, however, that it’s because of a procedural process between courts and the county. 

“It’s frustrating to me as a commissioner because I don’t want to see this either,” Johnson said. “But I can’t go out and just tear it down.”

According to the county’s Director of Community Development, Alan Mitchell, the demolition was roughly a $71,000 project, and more are set to come soon in the Whitehall neighborhood.

The county is also pushing to install a new digital reporting system to cure the reporting issues by this fall.