Vacant home in Southeast Roanoke causes concerns

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) It's a problem that's been facing Roanoke for years -- vacant homes in disrepair, and one in particular is raising some more serious concerns.

Sherry Lucas is someone who has a soft spot for Southeast. She lives in this section of Roanoke, and is working to restore this house to its former glory.

Lucas said, “It seems like you bring back a part of history when I'm working on homes.”

Lucas loves talking about the work that's going into it, but she's less than enthusiastic about the building across the street on Montrose Avenue and 12th Street. Data from the fire marshal shows this empty home caught fire four times since November 2016. Once, injuring a firefighter after he fell through the floor. She's concerned about what would happen if a child got inside and was hurt -- and whether it's going to catch fire again.

“These houses have old wood in them and when they go up, they go up,” she said.

The front porch is littered with notices from the city, but it still stands, even though it has rap sheet of its own.

Chris Chittum, Director of Planning, Building and Development, said, “A pretty long one -- going back to 2015.”

Chris Chittum is the city's director of planning, building and development. He says they've tried to get the owners to either tear it down or fix it up. Now, they're taking it into their own hands.

“We have traditionally considered demolition to be the last resort,” he said.

He estimates it'll be six months or a year before they get through the legal proceedings to tear it down.

“That process in and of itself is quite unwieldy and lengthy because of the due process of law,” said Chittium.

As for Lucas, she's afraid for other homes, too.

“It's pretty much now falling apart,” she said.

A quick tour of the neighborhood found half a dozen other vacant homes.

Lucas said, “And it just lowers pride in the neighborhood.”

Sherry believes empty houses keep the neighborhood from moving forward, and others from seeing potential.