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Mayor Votes for Motion that Could Demolish Historic House

Mayor calls decision "unwanted and difficult."

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.

Doug Brown February 28, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Erin, You're the editor, but I like - Mayor Votes to Give Owners One Last Chance to Save Historic House.
Erin Gibson (Editor) February 28, 2012 at 11:21 PM
point taken, it will be interesting to see which headline ends up playing out in the end...
Jeff February 29, 2012 at 02:34 AM
Erin, a nice job of fully explaining this complex situation. In reality this decision by the mayor maybe what actually saves not condemns this place. The owner has failed to do anything for 15 years of the City cajoling her. Now unlike in the past she must be motivated or she will lose it all. It is a calculated risk I believe but I commend Mayor Parrish on the tough decision.
Rich February 29, 2012 at 12:22 PM
If a 4-2 vote would have been needed to "budget and appropriate funds per the city charter" to mothball the house, why is a 4-2 vote not similarly needed to budget and allocate funds to demolish the house? Am I misunderstanding the stated rationale?
Mary Ann Jenkins February 29, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Mayor made the right choice.
Tom February 29, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Jeff, thanks, finally someone who gets the entire picture . . . and strategy. If the owner can't be inspired, perhaps the bank can, i.e., it should want to save its collateral, no? Get it? One other maddening thing . . . everywhere- in the media blogs, at the public meetings, and in private conversations . . . many people seem not to be HEARING . . . the owner always has, and always will REFUSE TO SELL, so we are otherwise stuck!! Meanwhile she lives in Alexandria while we all have to endure the blight. Tom W
Erin Gibson (Editor) February 29, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Good question, Rich. It would make sense that if it comes to the demolish phase of the motion, then the council would have to vote in favor of a motion to appropriate the funds for demolition. Should the mayor have voted 'no' on Monday then the motion to mothball would have been dropped (because council would've needed a 4-2 vote versus 3-3) and we would be back at square one, as I understand it. I believe the mayor wants action now, and like the story says, he hopes the owners sell or repair the house so it does not get to the demolish phase of the motion.
Stephen March 02, 2012 at 01:32 PM
I think Jeff's comment is 'right on'. And, Tom has a good point also. The owner has had 15 years to fix up the house (heaven knows the local tradesmen need the work) and the city council should not be using tax payer dollars to fix up the property (to benefit a private individual.) I"m hoping she sells and gives another private citizen the opportunity to fix up the property.
Erin Gibson (Editor) March 02, 2012 at 02:19 PM
The last appraisal for the house and property was around $260,000. The land alone was appraised at $160,000 recently. Would you pay that for the house/property?

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