Jan. 31 deadline for razing house Owners failed to act on September order to repair structure

January 02, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The owners of a fire-damaged house on Charles Street, who didn't respond to a September city order to repair or demolish the house, now face a Jan. 31 deadline to have it torn down.

Two other Charles Street property owners received similar orders Sept. 19, in the Westminster city government's first application of an uninhabitable-buildings ordinance adopted by the City Council in January 1995.

One has transformed her house from a dilapidated building, its porch crammed with chairs, boxes, bags and old televisions, into a neat structure with new siding and shutters.

The owners of the remaining building, a historic black school, have told the city that they plan repairs but have not taken action.

Thomas B. Beyard, the Westminster planning director, said he heard nothing from James A. and Melernea Frisby, owners of the fire-damaged house at 26 Charles St., after they were ordered to repair or demolish the building in September. The family was forced out of the house by a kitchen fire in December 1993.

Under city law, an owner who fails to repair a building after city officials judge it a health or safety hazard must tear the building down.

"Should you not complete demolition in accordance with this directive by Jan. 31, 1996, I will pursue the obtention of a court order to pursue demolition," Mr. Beyard wrote the Frisbys Dec. 13.

Mr. Beyard said the city staff will work with property owners who are trying to improve run-down buildings but that "the option of doing nothing is not acceptable."

Mr. Frisby said that although he hadn't tried to talk to Mr. Beyard about repairs, "I'm not going to let a big house like that be torn down."

He said he hadn't done any work on the house because he was concentrating on a house he plans to build on an adjacent lot.

At 29-31 Charles St., where Mary E. Dorm had a contractor install siding, replace windows and replace porch posts, Mr. Beyard praised the transformation.

"There's a miracle on 34th Street. Now we have a miracle on Charles Street," he said.

Mrs. Dorm said she had planned to repair the house before the city acted and is still angry that some of her neighbors complained to local government officials about the house's condition. "Here I'm a Christian woman and I go to church," she said.

Marvin and Sharon Cornish, who own the vacant former school at 37-39 Charles St., did not return telephone calls. Mr. Beyard said they plan to improve the building and have promised to send the city a list of proposed repairs.

"We want to be cooperative because I believe they really want to make improvements," Mr. Beyard said.

The former Charles Street School was the first school for local blacks, Mrs. Dorm said.

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