TARPON SPRINGS — Since 1993, the tan ranch-style house at 721 North Ave. had been a hotbed of drug activity. Its owner, Charles Edward Burrowes Jr., had been arrested and imprisoned several times on drug charges.
But Tuesday, the house became a symbol of change.
Through the Department of Justice's Operation Goodwill program, the house that once was a drug distribution point was given to the Housing Authority of Tarpon Springs to be converted into affordable housing.
"This shows how government can work together for the greater good," Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie said.
Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats said it can "become a real home for a deserving family."
When Pinellas County detectives raided the home on May 9, 2008, they confiscated 3 kilograms of cocaine and $46,387 in drug proceeds.
About five months later, Burrowes Jr., 49, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. As part of his plea, Burrowes agreed to forfeit his house to the federal government.
Tuesday, officials from the city of Tarpon Springs, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Tarpon Springs Housing Authority gathered in front of the house to celebrate its new beginning.
The 2010 assessed value for the three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath home is $64,011, according to the Pinellas County Property Appraiser's Office. Through Operation Goodwill, the Housing Authority gets the 1,058-square-foot house for free. The Housing Authority plans to rent the single-family home as affordable housing.
Operation Goodwill was started in 1997 and the U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Attorney's Office have transferred 47 properties through the program. The properties go to nonprofits or law enforcement agencies.
While most of those attending the ceremony Tuesday were celebrating the transition, neighbor Paul Kerr, 70, was vocal about his disappointment that the house was being given to the Housing Authority.
"I don't feel sorry for Charles (Burrowes)," said Kerr, who has lived and owned property on North Avenue for 40 years. "His daddy gave him that house and look what he did. He gave it away. But the Housing Authority already owns almost all the land around here and sooner or later, we won't own a thing in the area."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4174.