Manassas City Mayor Harry J. Hal Parrish ll has voted in favor of a motion that cold lead to the demolition of an historic house that sits in a state of decay at the corner of Prescott and Quarry roads at Monday night's council meeting should the home's owner not take action on the house within 90 days.
The mayor voted in favor of the motion proposed by Council Member Mark Wolfe, seconded by Council Member Mark Aveni and supported by Council Member Jonathan Way at the Feb. 13 council meeting that would give the owner of the house one last chance to replace, repair or demolish the structure within 90 days, or the city could exercise its right to have it demolished.
I hope we do not get to the demolish part of the motion, said they mayor, who recently visited the house.
Some citizens at the meeting last night said it would be tough to watch the house go, but also lamented that the owners have not done anything in over a decade to the structure.
The motion comes 15 years after the city first began taking up the issue of 'demolish by neglect' regarding the property at 9300 Prescott Ave., which has been the recipient of many property maintenance violations over the years.
The mayor outlined a time line of the city's dealings with the house from the time the house was first considered for demolish by neglect in 1996 to numerous attempts in 2011 by city staff to try and get the owners to include deadlines for securing, repairing or removing the house after an inspection found the porch a safety hazard and the house uninhabitable.
The owner's have failed to meet numerous requests by the city to fix up the house, according to the mayor's time line of events. The gas line to the home was abandoned in 2006 and more recently the fire marshal deemed the electrical box for the house unsafe due to water damage. It was removed by the utilities department.
Tom Waters, vice chair for the City of Manassas Architectural Review Board (ARB) and a self-identified "old house aficionado," said the mayor made the right decision.
All of the ideas presented by citizens at the meeting to save the house have "all been tried in the past," Waters said. The better, cheaper option is to have the home demolished and someone could possibly build a similar home in the future, he said. in support of the motion and requested that blue prints of the home be drawn up should a private entity want to rebuild a similar house.
Still, citizens in support of keeping the historic gem in a city that prides itself on "preserving historic interest" told council Monday night that they need more time and there are other options.
If the porch is the only part of the house that has been deemed unsafe and therefore must be torn down, then why not just put up a construction fence around the porch to buy some more time, said Mark Hempen, owner of the Manassas Junction Bed and Breakfast, located on Prescott Avenue.
Opponents of the motion site the owner's most recent expression of intent to fix up the house or the possibility the house could be sold after neighbors were able to get in touch with a representative at Bank of America, which has a lien on the property.
"We have people knock on our doors telling us they want to buy the house," said Hugh Ickrath, who lives two doors down from the property.
But the owners have been unwilling to sell. The best option is for them to sell, said one resident.
Council Members Sheryl Bass, Andrew (Andy) Harrover voted in favor of a motion proposed by Council Member Steven Randolph that would budget and appropriate $88,000 to "mothball" the house to prevent further deterioration and remove the porch, which presents a public safety hazard.
The mayor said he could not have voted for Randolph's motion because it called for the budgeting and appropriation of funds, which per the city's charter would require a 4-2 vote by council. The mayor issues a vote only in the instance of a tie, which is what the motion by Wolfe carried.
"I did my duty, though I don't like," the mayor said.
The mayor said the the city and its residents have been dealing with the owner's lack of attention to the home for too long and the time for action is now, or the house will eventually fall down due to time, neglect and the elements.
Demolition will cost taxpayers around $20,000 to $30,000.