DeKalb sues over ‘war zone’ condo complex

The DeKalb County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to ask a judge for permission to clean up a trash-filled and partially burned-down condo complex.

The county will file a lawsuit seeking legal authorization to intervene at Brannon Hill condos, which nearby residents say has been plagued by drugs, gangs and blight. More than 100 people still live in the 368-unit complex that was built in 1973.

A ruling in DeKalb's favor would give it the authority to remove trash, clear overgrowth and prevent insect or animal infestations at the condominiums, located off Memorial Drive near Clarkston High.

Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton described the condos as a “war zone” in need of help.

“This first step allows us to get in there and begin to clean up,” Sutton said after the vote. “Now we have a path and a plan.”

Commissioner Nancy Jester said the county government should work to make the area safer, which would promote economic development.

“This has been a problem for a really long time,” Jester said. “Here starts the renaissance of South DeKalb.”

The lawsuit, which is expected to be filed this week, will ask a DeKalb Superior Court judge to declare common areas of Brannon Hill condos a public nuisance.

Even greater county action may be necessary at Brannon Hill in the future, said Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May.

County officials have discussed several possibilities, including condemning or buying the property, May said. He said the long-term plan for Brannon Hill hasn’t been determined.

A Brannon Hill resident, Dowlay Mohammed, said she welcomes the county’s actions.

“Bad things are still happening,” she said. “The children and elders are staying there, and they don’t have anywhere to go.”

DeKalb’s government so far hasn’t been able to clean up the area because the legal responsibility for code violations lies with property owners, many of whom no longer live there and are difficult to find to hold accountable.