Residents Express Concern Over Abandoned Historic House
"It's been a constant struggle"—Coucilmember Andrew Harrover on the unsightly property on Prescott Avenue.
A Washington Post headline dated September 2007 reads: Manassas Will Pay $94,000 to Preserve House, so why is 9300 Prescott Avenue still in a state of decay?
After all, the condition of the home is not a new issue for the city government or residents. The city has been fighting for nearly 15 years to get the property’s owners to maintain the rundown home after the city zoning inspector and fire marshal concluded the house was being destroyed by neglect back in 1996.
The Washington Post reported in September 2007 the city had had enough with the neglected property and its owners and took an “unprecedented step” to preserve the house by voting 4-2 to spend nearly $100,000 for repairs.
Councilmember J. Steven Randolph told Patch the city was going to do this by placing a lien on the property to be repaid by the owners once the property was sold.
But, according to neighbors and Councilmember Randolph, strong public outcry resulted in the city backing down on fixing up the house. As a result, then Mayor Douglas Waldron sided with then vice-mayor Harry J. Parrish II (now mayor), Councilmen Jonathan Way and Marc Aveni to overturn the ruling.
So, to this day, the 1905 historical Queen Anne-style house continues to fall further and further into disrepair.
Councilmember Andrew Harrover maintained his vote for the city to fix the house, along with Coucilmember Randolph.
Harrover has even blogged about the property, attracting nearly 35 comments from concerned city residents and visitors. And at a council meeting on Jan. 10, two nearby neighbors spoke out about the decrepit condition of the home.
The home sticks out like a sore thumb in comparison to its freshly painted and well-kept neighboring properties. Its paint is peeling, the columns are rotting and one of the windows is busted out, exposing the inside of the home to the elements and creatures seeking shelter from the frigid temperatures. Large fallen branches from a dead tree litter the yard and the grass is overgrown. The back stairs leading to the rear porch are impassable, missing large brick clumps, one neighbor noted.
The neighbors along Prescott Drive in Manassas view the two-lane road as the “gateway into the historic district and the city” and do their best to keep up with their historic homes and property, so it is no wonder they would like the city to do something about the rundown property on the corner of Quarry Road and Prescott Avenue.
Harriet Carter and her husband have lived across the street from the rundown house since 1985. They said they have seen the property fall into further and further disrepair over the years. Carter said she is reminded by the city on a yearly basis “to keep up with the aesthetics” of her property and home while the house across the street “is allowed to remain in a continual state of decay” year after year.
“The entire property looks completely unkempt,” she said.
Carter addressed the city council at a recent Monday night council meeting about the abandoned property and said it has not been the first time the community has asked the city to do something about the eyesore at its entrance.
“We sound like a broken record,” she said.
Carter also expressed concern about the first impression of the city visitors will get when they start to arrive for the Sesquicentennial Civil War events this year.
Ms. Detwiler also lives on Prescott Avenue and said she would like to see someone purchase the home and fix it up, but the home is so bad “it would take a lot of money.”
Detwiler told Patch that people have expressed interest in the home before, but the owners would not accept, and now the home is in as bad as shape as ever.
The owners have previously stated economic factors and sentimental issues have prevented them from fixing or selling the home.
“If they don’t do something, it [the house] is just going to fall down,” Detwiler said.
City Councilmember Jonathan Way said he would like the owner’s to fix up the property because the city just can’t go around fixing up private properties with taxpayer money.
“I would like the city to fix up my house, too,” he said.
Parrish told the News and Messenger back in 2007 he was “torn between wanting to retain the charisma of the city's historic properties and spending tax payers dollars for the right reasons.”
Harrover said the house on Prescott is a struggle for the city. "Philisophically, I think it needs to be saved...they just don't make houses like that anymore."
But the reality is the "city can't condemn a piece of property and sell to a third party," he said. "That is illegal."
It was once reported the owners were delinquent on their property taxes, but a recent check of tax records by Patch showed there are no back taxes due on the property.
Another abandoned home on 9008 Sudley Road was also brought to the council’s attention at the meeting.
The home is barely visible from the road as the yard is completely overgrown and the drive way is now covered in grass. The city has received invoices for mowing services performed at the property.
According to tax records, the home is delinquent and has been for nearly 15 years. A call to the city attorney’s office regarding the delinquent state of the home was not immediately returned.
Harrover said historically the city has taken a "very measured approach to taking any action on someone's property." But said with the continual urban growth happening in and around Manassas, the city will ultimately have to start implementing more policies that deal with issue of neglected properties.