SNOW HILL — While begrudgingly offering one final warning, the Worcester County Commissioners promised Tuesday that if steps are not taken to repair or demolish a decrepit building in Snow Hill within 30 days, the county will tear it down.
“It’s an eyesore, a mess, a haven for homeless people, whatever,” said Commissioner Louise Gulyas.
Pusey’s Store in Snow Hill has been on the commission’s radar since it was marked as a derelict property back in November. According to a report by Director of Development Review and Permits Ed Tudor, portions of the store are “dilapidated, burned out, fallen down, ramshackled and decayed.”
Tudor singled out a portion of the building on the right side that “was fire damaged and had collapsed.” This week he reiterated his opinion that at least the wings of the structure are in rough, possibly dangerous shape. However, he added that while the center portion of the building is by no means aesthetically pleasing, it’s not in nearly as perilous condition.
“Probably our biggest concern with the structure at this point in time is with regard to the sheer amount of rotted material evident on the exterior of the building,” wrote Tudor in a memo.
The owners of Pusey’s Store were first notified of their property’s status as a nuisance on Feb. 9 and since then have gone through a public hearing, received a 90-day extension, and made minor repairs that Tudor determined have been nowhere near sufficient towards bringing the structure up to code.
At this point, Tudor added that the building is not beyond saving, though demolition would also technically abate the nuisance.
Gulyas led the charge in calling for the county to intercede and raze the property. However, the majority of the commission was hesitant to take drastic measures.
“We’re walking down a dangerous road,” warned Commissioner Virgil Shockley.
County Attorney Sonny Bloxom also advised caution.
“You don’t want to take down the building wrongfully and get sued,” he said.
Gulyas, however, continued to call for a direct approach. She pointed out that the owners have had nearly six months to bring their building up to code under the eye of the county and much longer than that before the commissioners were even aware of the state of the property. While none of the commissioners argued Gulyas’ points, Shockley reiterated the need to give the owners as much opportunity as possible before forcing demolition.
“I’d rather be on the legal side of it than get sued,” he said.
Shockley, who represents Snow Hill, admitted that he had hoped the owners “would take the initiative” with their store but has not been happy with the results so far.
Commissioner Judy Boggs pointed out that a final warning could serve to “open communications” at the very least. However, she made the motion that if the structure is not brought up to code or the owners do not come forward with a signed contract for repairs or demolition, than the county should go in with a wrecking ball.
“I’m suggesting we take additional steps before the county goes in with a bulldozer and tears it down,” said Bloxom.
There is some ambiguity over whether the county will need to demolish only the wings of the store if it decides to intercede or if the entire structure should be razed.
“We’d be responsible for a lot of things,” said Commissioner Madison Bunting.
While Boggs made the motion, she was not ready to commit to total or partial demolition and explained that the commission will have to make a decision based on what action is taken by the property owners in the next 30 days.