City condemns house

Published 7:21 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Although Washington’s City Council awarded a contract to demolish a deteriorating house, there is a possibility the structure could be save, albeit an unlikely possibility.

During its meeting Monday, the council unanimously voted to condemn the partially burned, abandoned house and award a $5,200 demolition contract to Dudley Landscaping to tear down the house at 309 W. Fifth St.

Although the house’s owner and the owner’s heirs were made aware of the city’s plan to demolish the house, the city could suspend that plan if a viable effort to save the house surfaces in the near future, according to City Attorney Franz Holscher.

“The last time that I’m aware of us talking to anyone who might have an interest in the property is Dec. 1, and they expressed a preference that the house come on down,” Holscher said in response to Councilman Richard Brooks’ question about efforts to contact the owner about possibly saving the house.

Councilman Doug Mercer, noting that Brooks had broached the subject twice, asked Brooks if someone had talked with him concerning the house.

“Someone that was interested in it said part of the family didn’t want it torn down, and I asked him to go back and talk to the family and talk the city inspector. If they could fix it, get a permit and fix it — do what they need to do,” Brooks said. “No one has talked with you in 60 days? OK.”

John Rodman, the city’s community and cultural resources director, explained that the city has been dealing with the fate of the house for some time.

“This particular structure is located on one of our entrance corridors, and we’re trying hard to clean up that area, so I do recommend you approve the condemnation ordinance and award the (demolition) contract to the lowest bidder, which was Dudley Landscaping,” he said.

Other bids were made by St. Clair Trucking ($6,000) and Tyler Williams ($7,200).

The circa 1930 house, according to a city document, does not meet minimum standards of maintenance, sanitation and safety. The city contends the owner(s) of the building received a reasonable opportunity to bring the building into compliance with minimum housing and building standards.

A complaint about the building was made May 27, 2009. A hearing on the matter was conducted Dec. 19, 2014, with the order to demolish the building issued that same day. The time period allowed for responding to the order expired Feb. 17.

If the building is demolished, the city will sell usable materials from the building. Any expenses incurred by the city related to demolishing the building will be a lien against the property on which the building sat, according to the city document.

The demolition-by-neglect ordinance is used by the city to keep historically and/or architecturally significant properties from deteriorating to the point they cannot be saved by rehabilitation measures.




About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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