Parking lot planned for Cemetery Street parcel after house is demolished

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 22, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — The owner of a vacant house in the Downtown Local Historic District can tear it down to build a parking lot, City Council members agreed Tuesday.
A committee made up of historic preservationists, city staff and a real estate agent recently inspected the house at 111 E. Cemetery St.
The owner wants to demolish the house to provide parking for adjacent office buildings he owns.
Though not located in a National Register district, the house has features commonly found in similar early 20th century homes, including paneled doors, wood windows, fireplace mantels, tile hearths and woodwork of the period, said Janet Gapen, a senior planner with the city.
The home’s historic integrity has been compromised by vinyl siding, replacement windows and alterations to the porches and other features, she said. There are signs of water damage and settling, she said.
The committee found whole logs still covered with bark in use as floor joists.
Code services Manager Chris Branham determined the house is deteriorated but not dilapidated, meaning it would cost less than 50 percent of the tax value to bring the home up to minimum housing standards.
The city’s Historic Preservation Commission members felt the house could be renovated, but the home is not eligible for tax credits because it is not in a national historic district, Gapen said.
The location of the house is challenging for continued residential use, and moving the house likely would require stabilization first, she said.
“While the house does retain some historic character, it doesn’t possess such special historical or architectural significance that would make it a priority endeavor for a nonprofit organization to undertake,” Gapen said.
The Historic Preservation Commission delayed the owner’s request for nearly a year, but after inspection the committee recommended allowing the owner to move forward with demolition and bringing the request to City Council.
The owner offered the house for fire training and agreed to allow salvage of historic materials by Historic Salisbury Foundation before demolition.
The owner followed proper procedures, including the one-year delay, Mayor Pro Tem Susan Kluttz said. Without tax credits, it’s unlikely someone would restore the house, she said.
“He has a right to have the house demolished,” Kluttz said.
The future parking lot would come before City Council for approval and must meet city code.
Unlike most cities, Salisbury City Council can prevent any demolition in the Downtown Local Historic District. The city won the right through local legislation after a prolonged battle between historic preservations and a downtown church, which tore down three buildings on West Fisher Street in 2006 to construct an expansion.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.