City Council gives owner of ‘uninhabitable’ house 30 days before process starts

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 20, 2013

SALISBURY — City Council members decided to give the owner of a dilapidated boarding house on North Long Street more time before they begin to evict tenants and consider demolition.
City Code Services Division Manager Chris Branham described the house at 507 N. Long St. as a fire trap with blocked exits, no smoke detectors and bedrooms without windows. Although the house does not meet minimum living standards, with raw sewage in the backyard and accumulating garbage inside, up to eight people live there including the owner, Nathan King Sr., Branham said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Branham said he’s been trying to get King to repair the property for a year with “very little” progress. He asked City Council to approve an ordinance allowing the city to close the house so tenants can be evicted.
Branham said he could not request demolition as he had planned, because the city’s Historic Preservation Commission recently granted the property a 90-day delay before demolition.
If the owner does not make repairs during the 90 days, the city can pursue demolition, Branham said.
Councilman Pete Kennedy didn’t like the idea of removing tenants.
“I’m against eviction,” he said.
Kennedy asked if Branham had made the owner aware of any resources that could help him pay for repairs, like the city’s Community Development Corporation.
Branham said he had not specifically mentioned the CDC to King.
Kennedy said the city should make every effort to educate a property owner about available funding. If a property owner refuses help, at least the city has offered assistance, he said.
Mayor Paul Woodson agreed the council should give the homeowner another 30 days to make the repairs.
“So you want to let people live like this, without being able to get out in a fire?” Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell said.
Councilman Brian Miller said nobody wants to throw someone out of a house without cause, but the if the owner has ignored the city’s warnings for 12 months, “there must be some kind of accountability.”
“This kind of condition is not acceptable in Salisbury,” he said. “We can certainly introduce them to resources, but that should not change what’s important to us.”
Councilwoman Karen Alexander said the city should put together a packet of resources and give it to property owners as soon as their home is identified as substandard. City Manager Doug Paris said he would have his staff work on the packet.
At Kennedy’s prompting, council members agreed to wait 30 days before starting eviction proceedings and asked Branham to talk more with King and report back to City Council in 30 days.
However, council members voted to proceed with demolition on three other properties — all vacant — unless owners make repairs soon. Those addresses are 422 E. Cemetery St. owned by Advisors Trust of Scottsdale, Ariz., 502 Milford Hills Road owned by a bank and 508 Milford Hills Road owned by James Cecil Simpson Jr. of New York.
Branham said owners of both Milford Hills Road houses contacted him before the City Council meeting and pledged to make repairs.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.