More from the series
Building Blocks from Blight
The Telegraph is investigating blight in Bibb County and its impact on the community. Over the next few months, Telegraph reporter Samantha Max will profile local residents affected by blight in their own communities. If you’d like to be interviewed, you can email her at email@example.com or call her at (478) 744-4306.
Patricia Westfaul isn’t sure why she’s stayed in Macon all these years. She’s thought about moving plenty of times.
The Macon native is tired of the rising property taxes and the crime. She’s frustrated with the county government. Some days, she thinks about moving to her own little island, where she can eat coconuts and tan on the beach.
But she said she is trapped in her house on Lake Tobesofkee.
Westfaul and her husband built their dream home on Bay Point Drive in 2002, thinking they’d live in the house in Christopher’s Cove forever. If they’d known their next-door neighbor was going to die two years later, they never would have built here, Westfaul said. The house is still vacant after 14 years.
Westfaul calls it the Herman Munster house.
Gangly shrubs have swallowed the side of the stucco walls built in 1977, jumping over the fence and onto Westfaul’s yard, driveway and basement. Kingsnakes slither through the unkempt lawn and field mice scurry through the bushes.
When a tornado tore off the roof a few years back, Westfaul said, the former owner’s step-daughter waited 18 months to reshingle it. Westfaul can’t imagine how much water damage the interior must have endured in the meantime.
More than appearance
Westfaul said she’s stuck in a Catch-22.
“If we want to sell and downsize one day, who’s gonna buy this house?” she said in her sunlit living room overlooking the lake.
Westfaul can’t imagine anyone would want to live next to “that,” she said, pointing toward the house next door. She knows she doesn’t.
And it’s not just because it’s a pain to look at, Westfaul said.
“Our taxes keep going up, but our value is gonna be nothing,” she said, raising her hand in the air again, “based on that in the middle.”
Westfaul doesn’t want to give up on her “forever home.”
This is the house where her kids had study sessions with their friends, where they went tubing on the lake, where they celebrated graduations. This is where Westfaul and her husband host their friends for dinner, where she cooks meals for the masses and makes candy during Christmas. This is also the house where Westfaul’s daughter died three years ago.
But some days, Westfaul wishes she had never built this house in the first place. She gestures toward the empty house to her left.
“That’s just been an albatross for 14 years.”
A plea for help
Westfaul wishes the county would address the issue, before it’s too late. Her taxes pay to maintain the lake, she said. Why can’t someone write an ordinance to make sure the people who own property on the water keep their homes and their yards maintained?
The Lake Tobesofkee Recreation Area staff told The Telegraph homeowners are responsible for the maintenance of their properties and that residents along the lake do not pay homeowner association fees.
If someone doesn’t take action soon, Westfaul said, she fears the house next door will fall down. She doubts the county has the money to tear it down.
Westfaul wants someone from the county to help.
She’s called her county commissioner. She said she also called the staff of the Lake Tobesofkee Recreation Area, the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission and the Department of Inspection and Fees. She estimated she’s left 150 messages with the mayor’s office.
No one has offered a solution yet.
“That’s Macon,” Westfaul said.
Every time you call, she said, they pass you along to someone else or say they’ll call you back. They never do.
“It’s frustrating,” she said. “I mean, it’s past frustrating that nobody in Macon cares. Nobody in Macon will do anything about it.”
This story is part of a series in The Telegraph investigating blight in Bibb County and its impact on the community. Over the next few months, Telegraph reporter Samantha Max will profile local residents affected by blight in their own communities. If you’d like to be interviewed, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (478) 744-4306.
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member and reports for The Telegraph with support from the News/CoLab at Arizona State University. Follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/smax1996 and on Twitter @samanthaellimax. You can also join her Facebook group. Learn more about Report for America at www.reportforamerica.org.