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Owner protests razing of ratty home

The woman whose home was razed days after city inspectors discovered hundreds of rats living inside now says the city acted improperly.

Vivian Parson, 76, filed a petition on Wednesday asking the city's Code Enforcement Board to review the city's decision to destroy her house. The board cannot award damages but can rule whether authorities followed the law when they decided on Oct. 7 to bulldoze the one-story home at 4224 W Tacon St. in South Tampa.

Hundreds of rats lived in the home _ in the walls, in mattresses and in piles of urine-soaked newspapers. The stench was what drove neighbors to complain to city inspectors, who visited the house in August and found the place in shambles. Shortly after that, inspection city officials declared the home too decrepit to live in and ordered Parson and her 54-year-old daughter to move out.

They didn't. And on Oct. 8, with City Council member Rudy Fernandez taking a turn behind the controls of a bulldozer, city inspectors razed Parson's home. Parson's neighbors watched hundreds of rats dash out into the street and clump together in nearby trees.

Parson, a retired clerk, had lived in the house since it was built in 1949 and was last known to be staying at a hotel in South Tampa. She could not be reached for comment Friday.

City code authorized Bill Doherty, the city's neighborhood improvement manager, to order the demolition of the home because Doherty felt it threatened public safety, officials said.

"There's no doubt this has been handled properly," said Jim Palermo, the city attorney. "The rats were so thick in the bushes that they looked like they were swaying in the breeze. That house was definitely a hazard."

The Code Enforcement Board will set a hearing for Parson's appeal soon, Palermo said.