LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The historic East End neighborhood in Lexington stretches from Short Street to East Seventh, Midland intersection to Elm Tree Lane. It's an area where long-time natives say they're sick of seeing trash just lying around.
"We're talking about a full household of stuff that could have household cleaners, any kind of toxic material," said Billie Mallory, Director of the East End Community Development Corporation (East End CDC).
Since February, Mallory and other members of the East End CDC have tracked and reported more than 55 dumping instances and trash pile-ups in the neighborhood. The group documented all incidents with LexCall 311. Issues reported included furniture and mattresses blocking sidewalks, appliances out on the curb, and trash creeping into the street.
"Here lately, as the houses have been bought up in the neighborhood, it's become a frequent thing like you ride around East End just look like- it's empty like it's trashed, just dumpy," said Ryan, who lived in the area his whole life.
Mallory says even worse than the eyesores are the safety hazards.
"We have children who walk that direction to William Wells Brown and then we have middle school kids who walk this direction to LTMS. So, if you've got a household full of stuff that's blocking the sidewalk, then that means they have to walk out into the street, which is not safe," said Mallory.
She added while they believe city trash and code enforcement officers are doing a great job of getting to the trash eventually, they also believe the problem isn't getting the attention it deserves.
"People who live here, particularly the homeowners, they take great pride in living here. Nobody wants to look at a mess," said Mallory.
Mallory feels like the issues are deeper than just trash.
"If we're going to try to overcome gentrification, we have to look at the neighborhood looking good, so people would even want to come here," she added.
Code enforcement Director Alex Olszowy tells LEX 18 that most of the large trash pile-ups are from evictions or abandoned property from a tenant leaving.
"It's not about anybody not doing their job. You can't prevent the evictions, and it's a court order and then they have their process," said Olszowy. "The tenants are moved out under the supervision of the constables and if they don't have the means to haul out their goods, the constables will actually call into waste management, and they will pick up all that waste."
Whatever waste management doesn't pick up, code enforcement places a notice of trash and debris violation and gives the landlord up to 14 days to clear it depending on the circumstances. Unless it's an urgent safety issue.
"The ones that you brought to our attention and following up and some of the ones with my officers in the field. We're getting these cleaned up pretty, pretty quick," said Olszowy.
Olszowy says it takes time because there's a process for picking up items, and some teams must work for others to finish their roles.
"It just doesn't happen instantaneously because the eviction process can take -it can take two hours given them without ever you've actually had them removed from the property," said Olszowy. "So it's not like city trucks are sitting there waiting to get rid of that material."
While code enforcement doesn't track specific violations- they do track nuisances, and they say every year during Spring, the amount always goes up city-wide.
In January, there were 169 nuisance complaints. In February, there were 225. In March, there were 367, and so far in April, there have been 428.
"Anywhere you have apartments you're going to have set-outs. Anywhere you have rentals you're going to have setouts," said Olszowy.
Edward Sparks, Fayette County Constable 3rd District Office runs one of three offices in charge of evictions or what's also called "Warrant for possession".
From January 1 to April 27, Sparks says they served 188. Out of the 188, he says around 10 had people still in the unit, and most of them were not even the resident who was on the lease.
We were not able to obtain data from the two other Constables.
Most properties in the East End aren't owner-occupied - they're rentals. Rental housing made up 69% of properties, according to an East End CDC study in 2020. That number has been increasing over the years with many of the houses being purchased by developers and landlords.
Mallory believes the lack of owner-occupied properties is contributing to the problem.
"If you don't live in a neighborhood, you don't have the same kind of pride or respect. And I guess it's easier to just pitch things out than to do the right thing," said Mallory.
"Most of the people that lived in these neighborhoods, they kept the property up. A lot of people didn't have much, but what they did have they took care of. A lot of these properties are being bought by other people that are coming in here. And they've just been left there," said Ryan. "I don't know if it's a city issue or a homeownership issue, but something has to be done. It's making our great neighborhood look bad."
What Mallory wants to see is if people will be responsible.
"If they've got to set people out there's a process, they can call and ask for a dropbox. And that will accommodate pretty much a whole house full of stuff," said Mallory.
Bulky item pickup is a service offered at no charge for households with city waste collection services. Call 311 to report issues to request assistance.