Demolition by neglect?
DURHAM, N.C. - The Durham City/County Planning Department has received a written request to suspend the Demolition by Neglect investigation and determination process regarding the condition of the Liberty Warehouse.
Paragraph 3.19.2B of the Unified Development Ordinance stipulates that the Demolition by Neglect process may be suspended if the property owner agrees in writing to rectify the alleged conditions of neglect within a reasonable timeframe.
The property owner, Durham Liberty, LLC, has committed to rectify the Liberty Warehouse’s deficiencies within a timeframe determined as reasonable by the Durham City/County Planning Department. Therefore, the pending Demolition by Neglect investigation has been suspended, and the public meeting scheduled for Thursday, June 16, 2011, at 5:30 p.m. is cancelled in recognition of that suspension.
Failure to make the necessary repairs to the structure within an approved timeframe will be cause to reinstate the investigation in accordance with UDO paragraph 3.19.2B.
So, apparently, the city attempted to invoke a provision of its zoning ordinance (an occurrence so rare that it ought to be circled in red on the calendar lest we forget that it actually happened) prohibiting "demolition by neglect," in the case of Greenfire's Liberty Warehouse building, which sustained serious damage during a rainstorm last month and had to be condemned, forcing all tenants to scramble to find new digs. Greenfire responded by agreeing, in writing, to make all necessary repairs within a "reasonable time frame." I don't know what's "reasonable" in this case, do you? Six months? 18 months? 18 years?
What action would the city take if Greenfire left this historically significant building vacant and unmaintained for 18 years, right in the heart of a thriving downtown district?
One need look no further afield than a mile north, where the Duke Park bathhouse has sat, idle, vacant, and decaying, since it closed just after Labor Day, 1993. Despite earnest and repeated efforts by several community organizations to take the building on as a project and turn it into a community use center, the landlord has not only failed to negotiate in good faith with those tenants, but has used the building to store out of date paperwork and other fire hazards, while completely neglecting any maintenance issues.
Of course, since the landlord is the city of Durham itself, one hardly imagines that the neglect by demolition portion of our development ordinance will be invoked here.
If i was someone who gave a shit, i'd probably let City Manager Tom Bonfield know just how bad something like this makes the city look.
But i'm pretty much done with that part of my life. I figure i'll check in on the bathhouse in another 18 years, and see if any progress has been made.