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Council agrees to condemn, demolish house

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City Council has agreed to give city officials the go-ahead to condemn and demolish this house, shown Tuesday, that is owned by Geneva Moseley at 306 W. Cypress Street in Elizabeth City.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Elizabeth City City Council on Monday gave city officials the go-ahead to tear down a dilapidated house, rejecting a request by the home’s elderly owner that she be given more time to try and fix it.

Council 6-2 voted to condemn and demolish the brick house owned by Geneva Moseley at 306 W. Cypress Street.

Voting for the house’s condemnation and demolition were Councilors Billy Caudle, Rickey King, Kem Spence, Jeannie Young, Anita Hummer and Kem Spence. Voting against it were Councilors Darius Horton and Johnnie Walton.

Moseley’s house has major structural problems, including a chimney that’s separating from the house, according to city staff. The house has lacked utilities for years and “is being used for storage purposes only now,” city officials have said.

Based upon a building inspection finding that the structure “is unfit for human habitation,” City Manager Rich Olson recommended council vote to allow the city to demolish the structure in April.

Moseley previously pleaded with councilors for more time to repair the home, noting that she lives on a fixed income and has limited means.

Moseley also said she lives and works outside Elizabeth City, acknowledging that the house has been burglarized and vandalized in her absences. She said she’s been trying to fix the house; one visible repair is a small brick wall put up to prop up the leaning chimney.

Councilors agreed to grant Moseley a 45-day extension to hire a structural engineer to determine what repairs it would take to save the house. Olson said then Moseley could be looking at repairs costing in excess of $30,000.

In a finance committee meeting last week, and again on Monday, Olson reported that Moseley has not found an engineer, and her repairs do not meet the city’s building codes. He again asked council to approve condemnation of the structure.

For her part, Moseley asked the council for more time to make repairs. She did not explain why she didn’t hire an engineer, though it would have been a significant expense.

Councilors approved the condemnation after a short discussion Monday. Spence commented he believes the house could not be salvaged.

During last week’s finance committee meeting, Young also commented that “she didn’t want to see anyone lose their house,” but said the council has a responsibility to the Cypress Street neighborhood.

“This here is one of the things that starts a community in the wrong direction,” she said, suggesting the house would attract crime.

Horton asked Monday if there were complaints about the property or reports of crime. Olson responded “yes” to both questions. He said there have been about 26 calls to law enforcement involving the property since 2013, including calls about larcenies and drug sales. He also noted city staff have been working with Moseley for about six months, but have seen no progress on repairs.

Horton also asked if the house poses a safety hazard. Olson said he believes so, because the chimney continues to pull away from the house.

Moseley disputed Olson’s claim about police calls to her property, saying she had no knowledge of them.

In voting against condemning Moseley’s property, Horton said after the meeting he didn’t criticize councilors’ decision, but he couldn’t in good conscience vote to tear down a house someone is trying to save.

Olson said Tuesday the city would not demolish the house until after July 15. Moseley has been informed, he said, to remove any personal property from the house.

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