(Oct. 5, 2018) Worcester County Commissioner Jim Bunting expressed his concerns with a dilapidated property in Bishopville during Tuesday’s commissioners meeting and was rewarded for his trouble.
After hearing numerous reports on the hazards the property might pose, the commissioners agreed to begin what’s known as a nuisance abatement process, which requires the property owner to remedy the situation of have the county do it at the owner’s expense.
The property is said to be the remnants of an old movie theater at the corner of Bishopville Road and St. Martin’s Neck Road.
The derelict structure has spurred countless complaints over the years, including stories of rats and refuse on the property, according to information presented to the commissioners to buttress calls for action. Bunting echoed many of those grievances and questioned what was under the tarps on the property.
“Anybody can take one look at just the photographs and see these tarps are not placed over it properly,” Bunting said. “Lord knows what’s underneath there.”
Following complaints of “rubbish, trash, junk, and rats,” the health department attempted to conduct an inspection on the property, but because of a “no trespassing sign,” inspectors had to do a “common view inspection” on Sept. 25. Bart Dorsch, an inspector of property, said he had to do his inspection from the road.
Bunting countered the health department’s assessment.
“I actually sat there one evening at dusk, and I saw two rats come out of there and run across the parking lot,” Bunting said.
Dorsch said he “listened for rats, and looked for rat holes,” but Bunting questioned the results.
“Would it be accurate to say then that you actually know nothing about what’s going on underneath those tarps and situation?” Bunting asked.
Dorsch responded “that would be accurate,” but made attempts to further explain the constraints that prevented him from conducting a thorough inspection.
“So, basically, the comments from the health department are not worth anything,” Bunting said.
Bunting cited several environmental hazards listed in the memorandum on the property’s circumstances.
“I think it’s time for us to do something, and I think I’ve mentioned enough areas that this could fall under as a problem, and I think it should be a two-pronged attack on this property,” Bunting said.
The code also allows for exceptions if items are fenced in or inside the structure itself, according to the memorandum. The property owner had it fenced, and has fixed the fencing in the past upon request.
“The code prohibits the outdoor accumulation of personal property occupying an area of greater than  square feet per lot,” Director of Development, Review and Permitting Edward Tudor said.
Codes also prohibit an excess of trash in an area –as it can be a fire hazard, and could cause “the inhabitation of rats, mice, snakes, or vermin,” Tudor added. If stagnant water accumulates, it could create a breeding ground for insects that could pose a threat to the community.
“I think an area that accumulates fresh water and makes a breeding ground for mosquitoes and attract other vermin, I think is a health or safety issue,” Bunting said.
Bunting also said the property is near Bishopville Pond, which could be a problem in the event of runoff. Other commissioners also asked questions in relation to the septic system.
“In my opinion this is a junkyard in the middle of a community where a lot of people take pride in their houses and the way it looks,” Bunting said. “For this to continue to exist is just wrong.”
Bunting then made a motion to proceed with the nuisance abatement process, and after being seconded, it was unanimously approved.