05/25/09 — Goldsboro will consider plan to save, not demolish, houses

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Goldsboro will consider plan to save, not demolish, houses

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on May 25, 2009 2:04 PM

An idea proposed by the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. could keep more dilapidated homes in Goldsboro from being demolished.

It doesn't involve any new ordinances or codes, merely changing the way the existing ones are applied, DGDC executive director Julie Thompson said.

The city's demolition by neglect code governs the removal of unlivable properties, and often, when the homeowner does not pay the bill for the demolition, the city places a lien on the property and takes possession of it.

But losing buildings of historic worth and gaining empty lots that do not collect property taxes is not the ideal situation for the city, Mrs. Thompson said.

"It makes me nervous, because the end result is demolition," she said. "We don't want to have vacant lots anymore. It's not a great asset or use of our money."

The difference between the current method of following the code guidelines and the proposed idea is that the city would go in to stop the deterioration earlier in the process, hopefully preventing further damage that could require a property to be condemned.

The stabilization would cost about an estimated $500, while demolition of a house usually costs about $3,000, Mrs. Thompson said. Funding for the program would come from the pre-existing demolition fund within the inspections department.

There is an existing precedent in other North Carolina municipalities that have similar programs to speed up the process of handling dilapidated houses.

"There are several cities that will go in and stabilize," Mrs. Thompson said.

Stabilization would not mean making a dilapidated property livable, but would minimize deterioration, Chief Building Inspector Ed Cianfarra said.

"We're talking about boarding up the windows, locking the doors," he said.

Repairing large roofing problems would also be something they could look at doing, Mrs. Thompson said, although it might be as simple as using a tarp to cover holes to prevent any further water damage. Cutting very long grass might also be an option.

Property owners of the old homes are often financially incapable of taking even those few simple steps.

"Most people who have these homes are financially strapped," Cianfarra said.

Nearly 99 percent of the dilapidated houses the inspections department handles are rental properties, he said.

The Goldsboro City Council members expressed interest in expanding the program to encompass all homes in the city, not only houses of historic significance.

"We do have the historic problem, but we have the problem city-wide," said Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen. "I think you can't just look at downtown."

Allen proposed allowing the inspections department to use funds appropriated in the budget for stabilization structures deemed hazardous to the public. Mayor Al King agreed with the idea.

"I think you need to pursue that," King said.

While the proposed application of the existing codes will most likely be handled by the city inspections department, the inspections staff should not be the ones tackling the job of physically boarding up windows of dilapidated houses, Allen said.

"I think we ought to administer the program, we don't need to be out there hammering the nails," he said. "I think they should be subbing out pounding the nails."

But he does think the proposed program is a good idea, Allen added.

If the DGDC and the inspections department do undertake the measures, it is unlikely they will begin any time soon.

"We're going to be talking about this a long time," King said. "I'm sure there's a way to do this, but we need some time figuring it out."

There will be more information after the new city budget takes effect on July 1, Mrs. Thompson said.

At the moment, there are seven houses in the city marked for demolition, but Cianfarra said he must wait until the next budget was approved because the demolition fund has already been spent.