With the World Series approaching, the city of Mount Airy appropriately is batting 2-for-2 recently when it comes to the razing of dilapidated houses.
After targeting a pair of vacant structures for demolition — located at 338 Hay St. and 145 Orchard St. — the municipality has managed to avoid being tagged with the accompanying costs.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted in August to have the rundown house on Hay Street torn down, as part of a stepped-up enforcement of building code violations implemented several years ago.
The structure at 338 Hay St. had a “significant” number of codes deficiencies, according to a city planner dealing with these issues, which the owner failed to address despite numerous notices.
This forced city officials to vote to proceed with demolition at a cost of about $8,000, but with the intent to foreclose on the land left behind to recoup that expense.
However, the commissioners recently learned that after that move was approved, the owner of the old house sold the property to someone else with plans to demolish it and rebuild at the site.
That meant up-front savings of about $8,000 to city taxpayers from the removal costs.
Orchard Street house
A similar success story unfolded regarding the structure at 145 Orchard St., which also had been approved for demolition by the commissioners earlier this year at municipal expense.
In 2014, city officials were poised to spend about $39,150 to have that structure and three others torn down.
Then they learned in July that Griff Gatewood, the newly appointed pastor of First Presbyterian Church, had plans to buy that house with his wife Elizabeth and invest $150,000 to $200,000 in renovations so they could live there.
The commissioners put the planned demolition on hold until the purchase could be finalized.
And during their Oct. 1 meeting, the demolition order was rescinded in a 5-0 vote. “As we speak, someone’s in the basement right now digging a new foundation,” Griff Gatewood told the commissioners.
Discussion during that session indicated that city officials have been proactive with efforts to get such houses improved, including being flexible with plans involving new owners.
“I think the minimum housing efforts that we have made over the last three or four years have been very successful,” Commissioner Steve Yokeley and city mayor pro tem said, citing the renovation of the Orchard Street house as a prime example.
“It never would have happened if we hadn’t wanted to demolish it,” Yokeley added.
Discussion at the Oct. 1 meeting indicated that about 17 cases involving problem structures had been resolved in response to the city’s crackdown, including seven instances of property owners demolishing houses on their own.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.