Owner of dilapidated buildings in Spencer has until Aug. 27 to show plans

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
SPENCER ó Members of the Spencer Board of Aldermen on Tuesday gave the owner of two dilapidated buildings until Aug. 27 to show he’s bringing them down.
Linwood’s Larry Graves owns the properties at 127 and 129 Fifth St., just off Park Plaza.
For about six weeks, Fifth Street and Yadkin Avenue have been closed for fear the buildings could collapse into one of the streets, injuring pedestrians or striking motor vehicles.
At their monthly meeting Tuesday, aldermen told Graves that they’d had it up to here with his lack of efforts to repair or demolish the buildings, which have fallen into a sad state of disrepair.
Alderman Donnie Hinson noted that Graves had in recent months received numerous letters from the town asking him to do something about the properties, where the roof has collapsed and walls are in danger of falling.
“Why haven’t you shored the walls up?” asked Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Morris. “We’ve got two roads closed. It’s a danger to motorists and pedestrians.”
Graves told aldermen he was ready to start demolition if given the opportunity. The town had discussed contracting to have the buildings demolished.
But the only bid received for the work was from D.H. Griffin Wrecking Co. of Greensboro, and aldermen said that even if they placed a lien against the property, it was doubtful they’d get back the $77,560 the work would cost.
So they ultimately decided to give Graves until Aug. 27 to show he’s working to bring down the buildings. A hearing on the matter is planned for 7 that night.
Graves initially said he wanted to bring the buildings down to a one-story level, but eventually, following the demands of aldermen, agreed to raze the structures.
Andy Eller, a structural engineer who has advised the town on the matter, told aldermen the buildings needed to come down.
“In my opinion, it’s definitely a hazard to everyone around it,” he said. “A thunderstorm could easily push it over.”
Eller said simply tearing down the second floors of the structures and rebuilding what remained wouldn’t make the properties safe.
“There’s still a danger the front wall could fall,” he said. “I think if you’re going to demolish, you need to take it all the way to the ground. That’s my recommendation.”
Aldermen agreed and instructed Graves to get to it.
But later in the meeting, during an open comment session, two Spencer business leaders questioned the town’s haste to have the buildings demolished.
Jon Palmer is a local architect and former alderman. He said the buildings’ deterioration was a gradual process that’s been decades in the making.
Palmer questioned the town’s emphasis on demolition.
“Shouldn’t we be exerting more efforts to preserve?” he asked.
Palmer noted that the buildings make up an important part in the downtown’s Historic District.
“In terms of downtown, the heart now has a hole in it,” Palmer said. “We don’t need another parking lot.”
He recommended that the town instead look at seizing dilapidated properties such as these and selling them for the value of the land with the new owners being expected to restore the properties.
Ann Waters, a Spencer businesswoman, said much the same, noting that the town suffers when historic buildings are demolished.
“We’re losing the fabric of this community,” she said.
But Rod Whedbee, another resident, warned that seizing properties for resale would be difficult.
Who would eventually determine that a property wasn’t being maintained to historical standards, he asked?
“It sounds great,” Whedbee said, before noting that such action was unconstitutional.