Commission supports city’s efforts on West Main house

Published 6:03 pm Thursday, September 7, 2017

Washington’s Historic Preservation Commission, during its meeting Tuesday, unanimously voted to enforce the city’s demolition-by-neglect ordinance for the house at 404 W. Main St.

The city made the request for the commission to review the house’s condition and determine if the house is eligible to come under the purview of the demolition-by-neglect ordinance.

The hearing, scheduled for last month, was continued until Tuesday at the request of the property owner, Charles Major. In her reply to Major’s request, Emily Rebert, the city’s community-development planner who specializes in historic preservation, wrote, “In the meantime I hope you will consider bringing your house into compliance with the ordinance.”

In a March 1, 2016, letter to Major, listed areas of concern regarding the house. They included repair/replacing roofing on the dependency building in the backyard, replacing a broken glass pane in a second-story window, repair and paint the historic fence, replacing rotten areas on house and painting the house. Rebert wrote that she would be willing to work with Major on making needed repairs/replacements to the house.

Major, owner of the house since 2005, did not attend the meeting. In an email Major, a former commission member, sent to commission member Geraldine McKinley, he wrote he would be willing to develop “a more definitive timeline” for fixing up the house. Karen Mann, a commission member, said her grandchildren refer to the structure at the “ghost house” because of its appearance.

Rebert told the commission if Major is unhappy with the commission’s decision, he may appeal to the city’s Board of Adjustment. He also can be fined for not complying with the city’s order to fix up the house.

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.

The city has condemned and demolished several buildings in recent years. Efforts to save and restore some of those buildings have met with mixed results. A house on Water Street was condemned, but the city, after a public outcry, rescinded that condemnation so it could be restored and renovated. The house behind Tattoo Rich, the tattoo parlor at the corner of West Second and Bridge streets, was demolished after attempts to save it failed.

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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