Dunn City Council reached its end with a property on North Fayetteville Avenue.
Council on Jan. 12th agreed to give the owner of land at 706, 710 and 800 N. Fayetteville Ave. 30 more days to complete demolition at the site or the city would take control of the property and do it on the taxpayer’s dime.
Chief Building Inspector Steven King told council members the city started dealing with this property in September 2019, and very little has been done since. Council attempted to address the issue last month, but decided to wait until all asbestos material was removed before proceeding with a demolition order.
King said his office was notified on Dec. 19 that the asbestos had been removed and the city released the property for demolition 10 days later. In the meantime, several council members reported seeing nothing proactive being done at the site, and actually said more debris accumulated in the past few weeks.
“This is a major concern to not only the citizens of Dunn but to this board that action has not been taken to go ahead and finish this,” Mayor William Elmore said. “Since our last meeting the asbestos has been taken care of and the city of Dunn released on Dec. 29, the property, so they could continue demolition of it.”
Elmore said he reached out to a representative from the Lester Group, a Virginia-based company that owns the property, to express the board’s concerns. The representative assured Elmore that if the board granted an additional 30 days, the company would complete demolition at the site.
Council members April Gaulden and Frank McLean said they both noticed additional materials piling up at the site in recent weeks and residents in the area started to complain about it. The city required the property owner to erect a privacy fence, install proper driveways and submit and stick to a timeline for demolition following asbestos abatement, but none of that has happened.
“When I’ve been by there it seems like there is more debris and other things than there was 30 days ago,” said McLean. “I’m not pleased with that.”
King said it appeared debris from other sites is being brought to the property for reuse or recycling, something that drew the attention of Councilman David Bradham, who asked whether the owner acquired the proper permits for such a venture.
“The only permits that have been issued are the demolition permit, which was kind of a verbal agreement that as long as he was there tearing down the buildings, the machineries, track hoe, the grinder, anything that pertains to the demolition of that project was OK to have there,” King said, “as long as demolition was taking place. It was up until we saw that the asbestos wasn’t being removed by the owner and activities were still going on and the buildings were still standing is when we decided to bring it to council the first time.”
Councilman J. Wesley Sills called out the practice as another reason the site needs to be cleared out sooner rather than later.
“Allowing any side business to continue without proper permits is a slap in the face to all the other businesses, large and small, that play by the rules and pay money for a permit,” said Sills. “Our city council has an opportunity to send a loud and clear message to all the hucksters, charlatans, slum lords and slackers that Dunn is not a dumping ground, Dunn is not an expendable resource, Dunn is not some third world country. Dunn is our home and we will protect it for ourselves and our posterity.”
Council eventually conceded to the additional 30 days, citing a desire to spare taxpayers from paying for the estimated six-figure cleanup. King said that if the city took over the site, demolition could take several months and would cost at least $100,000.
“I would say the best way, the quickest way, would be to let him go ahead and finish,” King said. “If we adopt an ordinance today we have to wait 30 days before we can do anything. At the end of the 30 days, if the city was going to take the responsibility of removing the buildings, we would have to bid it out, which would take 2-3 months to get the lowest priced. We could be looking at 4 months before we could ever get in there to do it. I would possibly give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Councilman Billy Tart placed the burden on the Lester Group to take control of the situation and implement some oversight on the property so taxpayers aren’t on the hook for an unnecessary expense. Councilman Chuck Turnage was hesitant to commit taxpayer money to demolishing the site, but said the city needs to do something about an eyesore in the middle of town.
“The only reason this is even a decision on my part is just the cost to the taxpayer,” said Turnage. “At the same time, Dunn cannot continue to be a dumping ground for stuff that makes our town look unsightly. This is very frustrating to me that we continue to go down this road over and over again. My patience is wearing very thin for this excuse or that excuse. I want to save the taxpayer money but we can’t keep going down this same road over and over again. It’s not fair to the neighbors, it’s not fair to the people who live there, and it’s not fair to the city to have to ride by there and see that. I’m growing very weary of this.”
While Gauldin elected to approve the additional 30 days, she said not one day more.
“There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it — it needs to be done,” Gauldin said. “Everything needs to be cleared: the fence, the property, the unsafe buildings removed, the gravel piles. It’s like everything is being shifted from one end to the next. All the dirt needs to be cleaned off the streets, the asbestos that’s there isn’t good for my constituents. They are lifelong residents of that area. I’m willing to give the 30 days and that’s it. Everything must be done.”
Sills wasn’t as accommodating in his prepared remarks as the lone dissenting vote on the extension.
“The $100,000 question is should we spend public tax money taking control of this demolition and actually finishing the job?” said Sills. “I can say unequivocally yes is the answer. We believe in fair play. What does it say about our efforts to reimage our city when there is a quasi-rock quarry operation in the middle of our city? Repeatedly little to no progress has been made to mitigate the hazards to public safety and community harmony. No one can disagree that this property is an eyesore. Residents are negatively impacted by the so-called demolition which seems to have no end in sight.
“While presumably waiting for asbestos abatement, the contractor has admitted to illegally using the site to crush concrete and other debris that was then sold. This side business is in violation of several city ordinances, including the fact no business license has been issued and this type of business is prohibited by zoning in this area of town.”
Turnage’s motion granted the 30 days and included sending a letter to the Lester Group concerning oversight. Council meets again on Feb. 9.
-Dunn Daily Record