A dilapidated house in Mount Airy which was slated to be torn down, then granted a stay of execution only to face demolition again, apparently will be saved after all.
That’s due to plans for the vacant structure at 145 Orchard St. to be sold and renovated by the new owners, according to a recent letter from them to the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.
The board had decided in early May to proceed with original plans forged last August to have the house torn down, after promised improvements that had prompted officials to delay that step a month later, didn’t materialize. The targeting of the Orchard Street house was part of a stepped-up codes-enforcement effort in Mount Airy which has resulted in about 12 structures being razed in recent years.
But in the weeks since the commissioners last addressed the Orchard Street house — located in a densely populated neighborhood off North Main Street — the new developments regarding its sale have emerged.
This has prompted the city council to consider rescinding its earlier ordinance to demolish the house when it meets Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Building.
In a July 2 letter to the city commissioners, Griff and Elizabeth Gatewood, who live on Grace Street, advised that they had signed a contract to purchase the house from Steve and Carol Hiatt (Hawks), a divorced local couple.
“We plan to complete a total house renovation in order to make 145 Orchard Street our primary residence,” the Gatewoods wrote.
They plan to invest $150,000 to $200,000 on the property now valued on tax books at $59,310, including the land.
“This will include, but is not limited to, replacing the electrical, plumbing, HVAC system, roofing and doors and windows; repairing the foundation and (making) any other structural repairs needed; and interior finishes (tile, beadboard, etc.),” the Gatewoods’ letter explained.
“Griff has completed several historical home renovations and will be the general contractor for this project.”
Along with saving the city government the 35,000 cost of tearing down the house — which it would have had to recover by placing a lien on the property — the Gatewoods’ plan seeks to preserve and improve an older local home.
When making an impassioned plea for more time to save the condemned structure during a council meeting in September, Carol Hawks, one of the co-owners, told city officials that it was worthy of saving.
Hawks said she was unaware of the planned demolition due to being divorced from her husband, who apparently had received the notices regarding minimum housing code violations identified there.
But Hawks said the house was structurally sound overall, including hardwood floors in “tremendous” condition.
After she was granted time to correct the deficiencies, the commissioners were told in May that little had been accomplished in this regard and attempts by the owners to sell the property were unsuccessful at that point.
Commissioner Jon Cawley, a frequent critic of his fellow officials’ attempts to crack down on problem properties, was reluctant even then to agree to the razing of the structure on Orchard Street.
He questioned the city codes enforcement officer repeatedly about its allegedly bad condition, saying the house appeared to be “livable” to him.
Cawley applauded the sale plans when reached Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s a good thing,” he said. “If we can keep a house from getting torn down and the city extending money that we will not recover, then it’s a good thing.
“The vacant lot is not going to be worth whatever we’ve invested in it,” Cawley added.
Additional agenda items
Among other business at Thursday night’s meeting, the commissioners are scheduled to:
• Hold a discussion on a downtown alleyway improvement project;
• Recognize Bob and Irene White, who owned Pandowdy’s, a popular downtown Mount Airy restaurant that recently closed;
• Appoint a new member to the Mount Airy Appearance Commission.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.