09/23/13 — DGDC optimistic plan will work

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DGDC optimistic plan will work

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on September 23, 2013 1:46 PM

A plan has been in place in Goldsboro since 2006 to reduce the number of properties working their way through the minimum housing process.

The Comprehensive Historic Neighborhood Revitalization Plan was designed to combat the problems that abandoned condemned houses have while also preserving homes in the city's Historic District.

Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Director Julie Metz said that common problems for city departments stemming from these properties range from fires started by squatters to delayed police response times getting into boarding houses.

"We had all these problems and we hit a plateau with commercial district revitalization," Ms. Metz said.

After it was discovered that nearly $1 million would be needed to demolish all of the properties eligible for demolition in 2005, Ms. Metz said she was approached with coming up with a comprehensive plan to fix the problems with old buildings.

"It was decided that we couldn't keep spending taxpayer money demolishing houses with nothing to show for it," Ms. Metz said. "If we could save these houses and stabilize them they were worth saving."

The city Inspections Department was asked not to focus on the houses in areas the plan had identified so that preservationists could pursue moving the properties to a buyer who would renovate them.

The properties come with restrictive covenants to ensure that the homes are restored in a way that retains the historic value of the home.

Another aspect of the plan was to enact ordinances retroactively disallowing boarding houses in Goldsboro's Historic District, formed in 1984.

The ordinance was made to allow for more owner-occupied single family residential living in the historic areas of downtown Goldsboro.

The program focused on three "neighborhoods" in the downtown area cloistered around Center Street.

The areas are concentrated to the north, west and south of Center Street and homes within that area were pursued to be turned over to Preservation North Carolina to sell the properties to prospective residents.

Preservation NC is a non-profit organization that works to sell dilapidated or unused historical properties for rehabilitation.

It will be celebrating its 75th year in operation next year.

Since the program's inception in Goldsboro in 2006, 13 houses have been sold through the plan with 10 still on the market today, Ms. Metz said.

She also said that three energy efficient houses were built through Durham-based Self-Help and sold in the plan area.

Nine other homes were indirectly sold through the plan as well, in or near the neighborhood plan areas, Ms. Metz said.

This year, only one house has been sold, a William Street property that was condemned in 2007.

The sale of houses slowed down heavily during the recession and work has begun restoring the house to its former condition.

The house on William Street was sold directly from the city to the buyers instead of through Preservation NC due to the fact that Preservation NC currently has as many houses as it can handle right now, Ms. Metz said.

The goal of the plan is to identify pockets of blight, distress and decline within Goldboro's historic neighborhoods that are in need of immediate attention and to turn them back into single family owner-occupied homes.

The belief was that the property values would increase, raising the tax base in those areas as opposed to having the city spending tax dollars collecting vacant lots.

Part of the plan allows for property owners in the area to donate structures to the city through the Inspections Department for a tax write-off instead of having them move through the entire minimum housing process before the city condemns and takes possession of them.

The write-off value begins at $3,000 in the first phase of the process and drops to $2,000 in the second phase and $1,000 in the third phase.