Biloxi tears down "eyesore" house; owner blames city code process

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Was it the demolition of a long time eyesore or the unfair treatment of a Katrina victim? The answer depended on who you talked to on Fourth Street in Biloxi Thursday morning.

Crews tore down the house that Chuck Pride says he's called home for the past 12 years. Biloxi city officials say Pride had let the house fall into disrepair.

Pride told WLOX-TV the demolition of his house shows what's wrong with the code process. He says the process was only done through the city, and a court never declared his house dilapidated. However, Biloxi city leaders say it's a good example of why it's so important that local governments stay committed to enforcement.

Betty Rhodes' cousin lives next door to Pride.

"It's an eyesore," said Rhodes. "The trash. He keeps bringing trash instead of taking it away. He's bringing it and it's a hazard too because that place is rotten. If that catches on fire, you might as well forget it."

Those worries came crashing down on Thursday when demolition crews began tearing down 318 Fourth street as the owner Chuck Pride watched. Pride says he's spent years dealing with the MDA grant and elevation processes and what neighbors called trash was his stockpile of construction supplies.

"These are brand new building materials," said Pride. "We're not talking anything other than what it takes to rebuild a house."

He said claims there were vermin on his property were "nonsense."

I saw construction supplies in Pride's yard, but there were a lot of other things too, including a shuttle bus. Biloxi city officials say getting Pride to clean up his property has been an ongoing battle.

Biloxi Community Development Director Jerry Creel said, "We've been working on the case on this property for over four years. We actually had problems with it even before Katrina. This is a textbook example of why cities and counties have code enforcement ordinances - to protect adjacent property owners from a non-resident owner coming into their neighborhood and setting up a junk yard. "

"We have given Mr. Pride opportunity after opportunity to clean the property up, but instead, he would rather argue about the process and challenge the process than to clean up the property."

Pride told WLOX News he was never officially told in writing what his code violations were, and that it was a sad day watching his home come down. Betty Rhodes saw it differently.

"Hallelujah," said Rhodes. "I tell you, it's about time. We're glad to finally get this done."

Biloxi city officials say the cost of the tear down and clean up will be passed on to Chuck Pride, who must pay it before he can pay his property taxes.