Sunday, December 4, 2022

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City to raze neglected storefronts on North Main Street in Burlington

Burlington’s city council has cleared the way for the demolition of two abandoned buildings along the 100 block of North Main Street that were once home to businesses that folded many years ago.

Located at 169 and 171 North Main Street, these two edifices were originally built in the 1920s and 1930s, back when this thoroughfare served as the main artery for Burlington’s primary commercial district. These buildings were most recently occupied by a trophy retailer and a TV repair shop, whose vestiges are still visible amid the rubble and ruin that has accumulated within the two structures.

The council ultimately sealed the fate of these two dilapidated edifices on Tuesday when it signed off on a demolition ordinance during a regularly-scheduled meeting that evening. In addition to authorizing the removal of the two buildings, this ordinance allows the city to place liens on the property in order to recoup some of its demolition expenses, which are expected to reach $120,750.

The council’s decision to send in the wrecking ball was all but assured by the time that the matter came up for a vote. Any reluctance that its members might’ve harbored was effectively laid to rest at a monthly work session that the council convened on the prior Monday evening.

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Russell Williams, the city’s inspections director, gave the council a sense of just how poorly these buildings have aged during the work session.

“Both buildings are in grave disrepair,” Williams acknowledged as he shared recent photos of each structure during the work session. “Building 171 is a one-story building, and what you’ll notice in the photographs is that the roof has fallen completely into the structure…Building 169 is a three-story building, and the bottom story is chock full of CRT televisions.”

Williams added that the second floor of this three-story building is no better shape due to a fire that recently erupted when a homeless squatter tried to cook over an open flame. The city’s inspections director wouldn’t even venture what lurks on the building’s top floor, which he admitted he hasn’t personally visited.

County real estate records indicate that both of these buildings presently belong to the heirs of Rebecca Willis Johnson. According to the county’s tax office, these heirs owe seven years of unpaid taxes on the property, which has been assessed at $73,871.

Williams went on to inform the council that the owners of these two structures have made it quite clear to the city that they have no inclination to renovate or repair the buildings. Nor are they willing to demolish these piles, leaving the city with little choice other than to commission its own wrecking crews.

Burlington’s city attorney David Huffman told the council that the demolition of these two buildings is the city’s only real recourse if it wants to see the property return to productive use. Huffman nevertheless conceded that the city is unlikely to recover the full cost of demolition even if it forecloses on the property using the liens it imposes.

“I’m simply going to say it’s not going to value out,” he confessed. “You’re not going to recover the dollars.”

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