07/21/04 — Concerns raised over plan for historic district

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Concerns raised over plan for historic district

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 21, 2004 2:04 PM

No one was totally against a city ordinance Monday that would attempt to stop the deterioration of historic buildings, but citizens did voice some concerns about how it would be enforced.

The Goldsboro City Council held a public hearing on its proposed "demolition by neglect" amendment to the zoning ordinance.

The proposed regulations would require property owners in the historic district, upon the request of the city, to take steps to protect historic buildings from decay, deterioration and structural defects.

If the property owner doesn't comply, a fine of $100 per day could be levied by the city.

Charlie Gaylor, a Goldsboro lawyer and local historian, said that he basically supported the ordinance, but that he did have some reservations.

"The ordinance is only as good as those in charge of enforcing it," he said.

Enforcement of the ordinance would come under the city's chief building inspector, who would routinely look for houses within the historic district that were showing early signs of deterioration.

He would also follow up on petitions filed by citizens and cite buildings that were beginning to deteriorate.

Those early warning signs could include rotting, holes, cracking of sidewalks, broken windows, leaking roofs, decayed brickwork or failed siding materials.

Boarded-up windows would be generally prohibited, but exceptions to this could be made by the Historic District Commission. If boarded-up windows remain in place for more than a month they would have to be painted a similar color to the exterior of the building.

After being notified that the building violated the city's ordinance, the property owner would meet with the inspector to respond to the charges.

After the hearing, the chief building inspector would determine if the charges were valid. If they were, he would issue a repair order for the building.

The property owner could then petition for a claim of undue economic hardship and have a hearing before the Hardship Review Committee. The review committee consists of the city's planning director, the finance director and the city engineer.

The committee may help the property owner by providing information about loans and grants, relaxing the provisions of the ordinance, or it could uphold the previous repair order issued by the inspections department.

"I support this, but some of us are struggling," said Shirley Edwards. "My greatest concern is that this won't be done heavy handedly."

Ms. Edwards said she would like property owners to be represented on the committee that reviewed the cases.

Gaylor said that if something like the "demolition by neglect" ordinance had been in place several years ago, the city wouldn't have lost several historic 19th century homes on John Street.

He said that it was important the city concentrate on areas before the houses were ready to be condemned.

"While we can destroy in a few hours, we can't replace it," he said. If we don't keep historic buildings we'll be just another little eastern town, no different than anyone else.

D.A. Stuart agreed and said he also wanted the city to consider buying the deteriorating houses and donating them to Habitat for Humanity.

During a council briefing, Planning Director Randy Guthrie said that when the new zoning ordinance was adopted, the demolition by neglect section would be amended.

"We will expand it to include downtown and the central business district," he said.

During the briefing Councilman Chuck Allen said that he knew the city needed to pass the ordinance, but said it would have a lot of economic effect on property owners.

"We have to make sure we allow some time," he said. "We need some system to get the ones who aren't working on their places, first of all."

The council is expected to vote on the ordinance at its Aug. 2 meeting.