Four houses set for demolition; 90-day extension issued for two others

Published 6:04 pm Wednesday, June 2, 2021

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — City council members Tuesday authorized the demolition of four local homes and issued a 90-day extension for improvements to two other dilapidated properties on South Jackson Street.

Salisbury Code Services Manager Michael Cotilla presented council members with an overview of nearly two dozen local structures eyed for demolition following ongoing code compliance issues. In the fall, the department identified 23 structures as dilapidated, which he defined as requiring an investment of more than 50% of the tax value to bring the structure to minimum housing codes. Dilapidated structures can also include those in a continued vacant state with vagrant and trespassing issues.

Of those 23, four have been sold, three are actively undergoing renovations, two were demolished by property owners, three are subject to a historic preservation delay and six were put off to the following fiscal year due to budgetary constraints.

Six houses are now up for demolition. Among them are 411 Grim St. and 210 South Caldwell St., which were both inspected in January 2020 and had compliance order deadlines set for April. Cotilla said a tree fell through the center of the house on Grim Street in 2013. The house on South Caldwell is starting to sink.

A house at 606 West Innes St. was inspected December 2020, and Cotilla said the roof is sinking due to a years-long leak. The owner sold the property to avoid demolition fees. The new owner gave the city permission to demolish the structure. Cotilla said the fees would be transferred via a lien on the property.

Council member David Post said hearing about that house on West Innes Street in particular is sad because it’s the former residence of Paul Bernhardt, who served as the city’s mayor from 1967 to ’71.

Additionally, a house at 420 Partee St. was inspected in January, with a compliance date set for May 24. Cotilla said there are ongoing issues of vagrancy and trespassing, and no record of active utilities there.

“We had some substantial concern when we first started doing this five or so years ago that the list was really, really long. Coming to us regularly with properties that are in the worst condition — I just think it’s the right thing to do,” said council member Brian Miller. “This is not a third-world country. Nobody in Salisbury should have to live next door to a property that is in the condition that we saw in those pictures.”

Council members authorized the demolition of the structures and allowed a 90-day extension period for two houses on South Jackson Street following a request from property owner Jesse Robinson.

Robinson owns 720 and 728 South Jackson St., which are nearing 150 days since a 90-day compliance order following an inspection in January 2020. Cotilla said he credits Robinson with making some improvements, but not enough at this time to reconsider demolition.

“I have actually been to these properties. These particular two are really awful in terms of what they are doing to the values of the property that is next door,” said Mayor Karen Alexander. “And the work that has been done is very, very substandard.”

Council members authorized the extension with the understanding that demolition could occur if significant improvements aren’t made by the new compliance order date. Cotilla defined significant improvements as rehabilitation of the exterior windows, doors, roof and siding. Additionally, since house neither has electricity or water and sewer, those hookups would be required to prevent demolition as well.

Robinson said he currently has loans for the rehabilitation costs of both houses, and materials have been purchased. He cited a challenge with labor commitments.

He credited the houses with having good bones, 12-foot ceilings and historic characters despite their appearance on the outside.

“This has been going on since 2018,” Alexander said. “And we’re working so hard to secure that neighborhood and make it what it should be. It’s two properties away from the West Square Historic District, so it is very crucial that we take a stand that we will not stand for this kind of continuous noncompliance.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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