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Abandoned north Forsyth Greenleaf subdivision torn down
Before the houses were torn down, they stood abandoned for years. - photo by FCN file photo

NORTHEAST FORSYTH -- Abandoned and unfinished homes in a northeast Forsyth County subdivision once the center of a mortgage fraud scheme have been demolished, about a decade after construction was stopped.

During the final Forsyth County Board of Commissioners work session of the year, County Attorney Ken Jarrard gave commissioners an update on the infamous Greenleaf neighborhood, which halted construction in 2006 and sat in disrepair until commissioners decided to move forward with demolition in 2015.

“This was the subdivision up in the northern part of the county that had been partially developed,” Jarrard said. “It subsequently became a crime scene as it was raided by federal law enforcement because of what appeared to be mortgage fraud.

“The byproduct of that, of course, was that these structures that were in various states of completion basically sat and deteriorated over years.”

The structures in the 40-acre property had been described as “shells” of houses and were in poor quality, had been vandalized and stripped and were built without proper infrastructure, which means they could not be completed.

“It was supposed to be on a community septic [tank],” District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said. “They just built it and didn’t put anything in.”

In 2015, the county authorized Jarrard’s office to move forward with a nuisance abatement process to begin the process of removing the properties, which led to legal action.

“We had hearings,” Jarrard said. “The court provided [property owners] a certain amount of time to abate; some did, some did not. Those that did not, the court order allowed us to exercise self-help and abate on our own nickel and then place liens against the properties to recoup the county’s costs.”

Jarrard said the cost of the project was about $187,000 for demolition and $31,000 for legal fees and that liens would be placed on 16 properties. Each property will have lien of about $13,900.

Two men tied to the 40-acre development were sentenced to federal prison for a mortgage fraud scheme and ordered to pay millions in restitution.

The structures were in such poor condition that during discussions before the decision to demolish was made, the Forsyth County Fire Department said they could not even use the houses for fire training.

Of the 60 proposed lots, 18 were in disrepair when construction ended.

Asbestos was also found in the structures.

Though Greenleaf is the most notable example, commissioners have previously said there are houses in their districts that have burned or otherwise been damaged and left abandoned but standing after the owner took the insurance money without tearing them down.

A new nuisance structure abatement ordinance is being considered to help the county tear the structures down in those situations.

Greenleaf will be discussed again at a meeting next year.