Court gives Tisdale more time

Published 2:21 am Saturday, June 11, 2016

Tisdale alleged in a lawsuit that the antique bricks being reclaimed from his buildings are worth a minimum of $150,000.

Tisdale alleged in a lawsuit that the antique bricks being reclaimed from his buildings are worth a minimum of $150,000.

Owner claims bricks worth $150K

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins granted local property owner John Tisdale a temporary restraining order against the City of Andalusia prohibiting demolition of or repairs to buildings Tisdale owns.

In late 2015, the city began abatement proceedings on seven properties, four of which are at least partially owned by Tisdale. The process is directed by a new ordinance governing structures and passed in the fall of 2015.

Public hearings were held in February and March, and property owners, including Tisdale, were given specific amounts of time to complete the work.

On April 29, 2016, city attorney Mark Christensen filed “intent to demolish’ and “intent to repair” notices in probate court in Covington County, including:

• A lot on South Cotton Street adjoining the train station, from which Tisdale was to have removed building materials, dilapidated rail cars, and deteriorated structures.

• 254 Historic Central Street, from which four structures were to have been demolished within 30 days of the public meeting.

• 223 South Cotton St. All structures other than the brick depot were to have been demolished, the depot was to be repaired, and debris removed. Work was to be done in 90 days.

• 201 S. Three Notch St. Windows were to be covered and sealed within 30 days; and repair work was to be completed in 45 days.

A suit filed on behalf of Tisdale, his wife, Jennifer Tisdale, and Tisdale Family Properties in U.S. District Court asked for a restraining order against the city, and claimed that their Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated.

Specifically, it argues that the properties “have great aesthetic and historical value to the local community,” and “great financial value to the Tisdales. The properties that were to be demolished contain “upwards of $150,000 worth of antique brick,” the suit alleges.

It also argues that properties owned by “prominent” members of the community are in bad repair but have not been abated. Specifically, the suit refers to these:

• “the Merrill family” and its properties on South Cotton, Morrison Street and Tisdale Street;

• Frank Henderson, who owns a building on Montgomery Street;

• “the Harry Huggins building,” located on South Three Notch Street, adjacent to the shoe shop.

• “Dr. Rex Butler, a prominent member of the Andalusia community, owns a shopping center on Church Street.”

The suit also lists properties owned by the city.

The suit also alleges that the Tisdales were selected for “targeted enforcement” because Tisdale and Mayor Earl Johnson previous disagreed over a $15,000 fee for legal representation Tisdale paid to Johnson.

It also says they were targeted because they are legally residents of Florida.

When Tisdale raised similar issues in the public hearing earlier this year, Johnson explained that the city was just beginning to use its new ordinance, and that other properties would be abated in the future. In the same meeting, the city abated properties owned by George Patterson, Jimmy Wages, and Tom Forbath, the majority owner of the Timmerman Building on the Court Square.

Judge Watkins first issued a temporary restraining order that was to have expired on Fri., June 10; however, it was later extended until a yet-to-be-set hearing is held.

“The court notes that a restraining order temporarily prohibiting destruction of buildings that have allegedly long been in disrepair will impose little if any burden on the City of Andalusia, and no financial risk.”

M. Adam Jones of the Dothan firm M. Adam Jones and Associates, LLC, is representing the Tisdales. Mark Christensen serves as Andalusia’s city attorney.