City steps up effort on abandoned houses

Published 4:32 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Washington is getting more aggressive when it comes to dealing with vacant, abandoned houses that pose danger to the public’s safety because they don’t meet minimum housing and/or building codes.

In recent years, the city has become more aggressive in dealing with structures that do not meet the minimum housing code and/or building codes.

After the owner of a structure had been given a reasonable opportunity to bring the building into compliance with the city’s minimum housing standards and the state’s building code, the city can proceed with demolishing the structure, according to city officials. If city money is used to pay for demolishing the building, a lien likely will be placed against the land. The lien will have to be satisfied if and when the property is sold.

“One of the things I think we need to address inside the city of Washington is the number of vacant and abandoned houses that are boarded up. What I’ve asked the staff to do is, basically, to bring a list of 10 houses up at the next City Council meeting, let you take a look at them and see where we are,” City Manager Bobby Roberson told the City Council during its meeting last week. “I’ve asked Chief Drakeford for his input, along with Frankie Buck, and, of course, Clarence Gray and John Rodman have stepped up as well and identified those houses. I don’t think we’re taking the necessary steps to take down those houses.”

Roberson further explained: “The other thing is this does not apply to the historic district. This is outside the historic district. We need to address those houses that are causing problems for us.”

Councilman Doug Mercer asked if the list would be a continuous list of 10 houses, adding a house to the list when one is taken off the list. Roberson said that would be the situation.

“This is Bobby Roberson just riding around, taking numbers and taking shorts with my cellphone. I’m estimating there is anywhere from 60 to 65 houses that need to be addressed.

“I think there’s more than that,” Mercer said.

Roberson said he envisions the list of 10 houses being compiled annually, adding that when it comes to the list, the number 10 is not a “magic number.” That list could have more than 10 houses on it or less, he said.

Mayor Mac Hodges asked if a list of commercial structures that are falling apart could be developed, specifically mention the former Washington Tire Co. building at the corner of East Third and Bonner streets. Part of its roof has fallen in, according to Hodges. Roberson said such a list could be developed.

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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