State will auction nuisance property in East Knoxville

7:57 PM, Jan 23, 2013   |    comments
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Bi-Lo Market in east Knoxville will be sold at a public auction.

For the first time a business shut down under Knox County's nuisance law will go up for auction.

Authorities shut down Bi-Lo Market in East Knoxville in June 2012.

On Tuesday, the state gained ownership of the property and plans to sell it.

The nuisance law applies to businesses involved in illegal activities.

The Knoxville Police Department (KPD) and the Knox County District Attorney's Office have closed down 33 nuisance properties since 2010.

However, this situation is a first for them.

According to Assistant District Attorney Sean McDermott, the property owners, Naheda and Aya Ayesh, used drug proceeds to purchase the property.

"Because the people who were committing the crimes were actually the owners of the property, we decided to seize the property itself," McDermott explained.

According KPD, officers received more than 300 calls to Bi-Lo Market since 2009.

During a search of the property in June 2012, authorities confiscated controlled substances, drug and gambling paraphernalia, stolen merchandise and pirated media.

Now, the property on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue will be sold at a public auction.

Payne Avenue Baptist Church is located next door to the property.

Pastor Richard Brown said he is interested in purchasing it.

"First of all, if I got the building I would tear it down and then build something totally different and new," Brown said.

Pastor Brown said he wants to use the property for ministry opportunities, including outreach programs for low-income families.

"We're between Austin East and Vine and then if you go out back there's Sarah Moore Greene so we're in a prime location to have some outreach ministries," Brown said.

KPD said it has seen an 85 percent reduction in crime at places allowed to reopen with a new business under the nuisance law.

But seizing property could become more common.

"If property owners themselves are involved in the sales of drugs and these types of crimes, we're going to be taking their property as well," McDermott said.

It is unknown what the starting price will be for the property but the last owners purchased it for $210,000.

The money from the auction will go to KPD and the DA's Office for efforts to stop crime.

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