Commission delays Carter house demolition for a year

Published 6:47 pm Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A reluctant Historic Preservation Commission unanimously voted to issue a certificate of appropriateness to the City of Washington to demolish the Carter house next to Brown Library, but it delayed that demolition for 365 days.

That decision came during the commission’s meeting Tuesday.

That delay provides those who oppose demolition of the house some hope the house still might be saved by moving it or some other option.

Under state law, the commission had no choice but grant the certificate of appropriateness, but it did have the authority to delay demolition, according to John Rodman, the city’s director of community and cultural resources. He also told the commission that if it chose to delay demolition it assumes the responsibility to find an alternate use for the house.

Rodman said the city has no problem with delaying the demolition.

Commission Chairman Edward Hodges said he and other commission members were of a “like mind” in wanting to delay demolition.

Dee Congleton, representing the Washington Area Historic Foundation, said the organization believes the house should “not be demolished for a parking lot.” She asked the commission to help with efforts to save the house.

Last year, the Brown Library Board of Trustees approached city officials about moving or tearing down the house, built in the 1930s, as part of a plan to expand the library and provide more parking spaces.

Councilwoman Virginia Finnerty said she’s “embarrassed” by a decision the City Council made last month regarding the house. Finnerty said she would like for the house to be saved from demolition.

The City Council, after coming out of a closed session April 10, voted 3-2 to seek a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the house at 415 W. Second St. That decision created controversy, with some people opposed to the demolition saying the council’s action was improper because the matter was not on the agenda for the council’s April 10 meeting. They also accuse the city of acting behind the public’s back in deciding to seek permission to demolish the building.

Earlier this year, Maggie Gregg, with Preservation NC’s eastern office in Greenville, told the commission there are several alternatives to save the house, including one in which Preservation NC, which works to protect endangered historic properties, would buy the house from the city and try to sell it to an entity willing to rehabilitate it.

Gregg said if that scenario transpires, the entity buying the house would be required to perform specific actions related to restoration and preservation of the house. Such covenants would be included in the deed to the property, she noted.

“There is a specific statute that would allow the City of Washington to agree to a specific sales price to a nonprofit, i.e., Preservation NC. All of our properties and surplus properties then receive restrictive covenants and rehabilitation agreements that are placed on them when the new buyer is found,” Gregg explained then. “So, it eliminates the uncertainty of the upset bid process, and it also works to ensure that the integrity of the property is maintained. We’ve been able to do this with things as big as schools and things as small as individual properties.”


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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