Commission to revisit requests to demolish four historic properties

Published 11:46 am Saturday, February 3, 2018

Washington’s Historic Preservation Commission, during its meeting Tuesday, is scheduled to revisit four requests for certificates of appropriateness to demolish four structures between Havens Wharf and the west end of Stewart Parkway.

Greenville-based BBL Ventures, although it filed the demolition requests, would prefer something be done to preserve the Johns Havens Moss mill, Phillip Aaron house, Winfield Texaco service station and a manager’s office, if possible, and find other uses for them or possibly relocate some of the structures. Because those structures — on one lot — are not officially listed as historically significant structures, the commission cannot deny the requests for the certificates of appropriateness to demolish them, according to John Rodman, the city’s director of community and cultural resources and chief planner.

The commission has two options regarding the request for each structure: grant it or grant it but delay demolition for 365 days.

At its December meeting, the commission delayed acting on the requests, saying it wanted to inspect the structures before making a decision on the requests. The structures are in the city’s historic district

The nomination form submitted to place the mill on the National Register of Historic Places includes this statement: “The complex now known as John Havens Moss Industries is several blocks upriver still stands as a monument to Washington’s river industry. It no longer functions but remains a picturesque and well kept relic of Washington’s vital waterfront.”

Travis Stephenson, a Chocowinity resident, represented BBL Ventures at the board’s December meeting. Stephenson said he would prefer the commission grant the requests for demolition but invoke the 365-day delay provision to give BBL Ventures time to “pursue any and all options that make sense” regarding the fate of the structures. Commission member Geraldine McKinley referred to the mill, service station, house and manager’s office as “iconic structures in Washington.”

“This request, when I met with Emily (Rebert, the city’s community development planner) and put it in — I’m not expecting, nor do I want, approval, honestly, which may make this process seem ignorant,” Stephenson said in December. “It’s probably like our forth option. Since we don’t know what we want to do, and it depends on who may partner with, what the best use is, economic feasibility. … I said I’m going to put in all four buildings and get denied and start the clock ticking, based on the 12-month waiting period.”

Stephenson expressed concern over the structures’ ongoing deterioration from neglect, but acknowledged that the house is in good condition and service station is salvageable.

“Something should happen with the property. We’re going to be good stewards of it,” Stephenson said, adding BBL Ventures will work with city staff  “to continue uncovering options that are economically feasible, and we’ll preserve all we can if we get to that point.”

At the December meeting, Dee Congleton, a member of the Washington Area Historic Foundation, advised the commission to reject the requests. “We all know this would forever change the look of the historic landscape. As you come across the bridge and come into town, that’s one of the main that we all look at. It’s areas like that that entice people to move to Washington,” she said.

Congleton said the “little house and service station could be part of a larger complex” that might be developed in the future.

Other speakers expressed concern with the possible loss of all or some of the structures, saying they are part of the downtown/waterfront landscape. Dot Moate raised the subject of the commission delaying action on the requests until it could inspect the structures.

If the commission decides to approve the demolition requests but delay demolition by 365 days, BBL Ventures would use that time to develop a strategy that addresses reuse of the structures and/or their relocation, if possible, “instead of watching them fall,” Stephenson said.



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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