Crumbling house demolished, home to be built on faith

April 18, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The outcome of six years of delicate diplomacy in Mount Airy is a newly vacant lot on Ridgeville Boulevard. The house to be built on it is a project based on faith.

Demolition of the vacant, deteriorating house at 805 Ridgeville Blvd. last week was a success for Mayor Gerald R. Johnson. He made it a personal project after nearby residents expressed concern about the condition of the property about six years ago.

Johnson is seeking a contractor who will build a house on the site, recovering the investment when the house is sold. He hopes to price it for a low-income buyer.

The mayor said he had explored bank financing for the project, but plans to accomplish it with "a faith agreement between me and the people who are going to be doing things, that they're willing to wait until the house is sold to get paid."

W. E. and Bonnie Winkler, owners of Trenchline Inc. in Mount Airy, donated the demolition work. Other volunteers provided containers and hauling services for the debris.

Johnson "was having trouble finding a way of getting rid of the house and we live in the community, so we volunteered to tear the house down," Bonnie Winkler said. She declined to say how much the demolition work cost.

Johnson won an agreement for the demolition and construction from owner Arthur M. Luby and his family in February, eight months after town government paid $434 in overdue state and county property taxes to prevent the house from being sold at a tax sale. The family retains ownership of the land. Johnson chose to negotiate with Luby and his family rather than take legal action to condemn the property. He said the talks took years because "I'm not the type of person who arbitrarily puts a hardship on people unnecessarily."

Replacement of the Luby house and the recent construction of another house on a vacant lot nearby could spark a renewal of the neighborhood, said the Rev. Edward Conaway, pastor of Warren Methodist Episcopal Church at 807 Ridgeville Blvd.

"We'd like to get the whole place cleaned up," Conaway said. "Once they see [the new house] and how things are looking, maybe everyone will fall in line."

Pub Date: 4/18/97

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