By Beth Lawrence

 

A clash between a Sylva resident and the city government has come to an end after an embattled property was purchased by Jackson County.

The county offered to buy the piece of property at 271 Keener St. from Marty Galik, and the sale was finalized in October.

“That property adjoins other county property, so we were interested in it,” county Attorney Heather Baker said. “We knew it was in the foreclosure process and considered bidding on it but chose to make an offer.”

The property sits next to the county transit parking lot and is near the Jackson County Public Library.

Troubles began for the property’s owner when the house caught fire in October 2018.

Galik also ran his business, Smoky Mountain Plumbing and Heating, out of the house. 

Officials deemed the fire suspicious and began an arson investigation; the case is still open.

In January, the town of Sylva filed a tax foreclosure on the .21 acre plot.

By July of this year, Galik and the town were butting heads over the property. Galik began cleanup on the house but piled debris from the job in the transit parking lot. He also parked two of his vehicles there.

The town sent Galik a letter giving him seven days’ notice to clean up the rubble and move the truck and van. He also received a citation for the debris. Galik failed to comply and police were sent to enforce the order.

At that time, Assistant Police Chief Rick Bryson and Detective Aimee Watson found what they considered a “suspicious device,” and the State Bureau of Investigation was called. The scene was cleared when bomb technicians deemed the device safe. The vehicles were later towed away.

County officials chose to make an offer to purchase the property rather than bid at auction for two reasons. The first is that foreclosure auctions are open to everyone, and they wanted to assure that they would be the ones who got the property. Second, they wanted to be fair to Galik and make a proper offer, Baker said.

As part of the purchase contract, Galik had 30 days from Oct. 22 to move his belongings out of the property before the county took possession, Baker said.

Once in possession of the land the county will secure and clean up the property.

Baker was not sure of any future plans the county may have for the plot.

The property sold for $50,000, approximately $9,000 of which went to pay back taxes and fees. Galik owed $2,765 in county taxes, $2,542 in city taxes and $3,646 in related fees, according to documents.

Galik netted $40,945 from the sale.