House of shame
By Craig McTear
SEX, drugs and rats ? Coffs Harbour's very own house of horrors has it all.
The derelict dwelling at the corner of Azalea Avenue and McLean Street is an ugly sight in an otherwise respectable neighbourhood, and it's become a haven for all sorts of dirty deeds.
Residents like Sue Korner are fed up saying their pleas for action had been falling on deaf ears.
"The city council says to give the police a call, but even the police are probably sick of hearing from us," Sue said.
"Vagrants are getting inside and sleeping in there, kids are having sex on the veranda, and we now have a rat problem.
"We've had to put down rat baits around our properties."
Neighbours are also anxious about 'drug addicts' and others using the former boarding house.
"Filthy mattresses and piles of rubbish are scattered throughout the inside.
Vandals have smashed every window in the place, sprayed graffiti on the walls, and wrecked fences belonging to the neighbours.
The yards are a mess, and land at the back of the property has turned swampy because of poor drainage.
To make matters even worse, unwanted household furniture and other goods are turning up there, thanks to those who now view it as a dumping ground.
Unfortunately, kids are also using it as their playground.
"We all want to see something done about it. If the owner doesn't have the money or the intent to do anything with the property, he should sell it to someone who does, or clean it up," Sue said.
"The other side of the equation is it devalues our properties."
Kohn and Freda Widerberg are also sick of having to lookat the eyesore, not to mention putting up with late-night disturbances.
"We've got vandals and squatters and people fornicating on the veranda," John said.
"The police have been called here on numerous occasions.
"There's drug addicts in there, and we've got vermin as well."
The couple is now worried the house could soon attract the attention of arsonists.
"We want the place properly maintained, or if necessary, have the whole lot removed from the block," John said.
The former Azalea Lodge was a vacant building when Sydney retiree Leon Wicht bought it in 1997, and he said it had only been solely in his name for the past few months.
He said yesterday he was well aware of the problems and had discussed them regularly with the city council, police and residents, although he was annoyed some had chosen to speak to the Coffs Coast Advocate.
"It's got nothing to do with them," he said.
"I'm in consultation with a couple of people to do something with it or sell it.
"Naturally, the council would like to see something done about it. It is an eyesore.
"I would like it to continue to be a low-cost accommodation place, but I've been restricted by legal issues."
Mr Wicht said he spent $158,000 renovating the house some time ago, only to have it trashed by vandals and thieves.
"Every time there's a break-in, I have someone go and bolt it up again, and I do make sure the yards are maintained.
"I was in Coffs Harbour only last week."