Tuesday, June 22, 2021

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Graham, NC 27253
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Property owner angered by city’s moves toward condemnation

The owner of a Clay Street property that Mebane city officials recommended should be condemned because the owner has failed to make any improvements since the last time the council considered the issue last August grew increasingly loud, angry, and animated during her time at the podium Monday night.

City attorney Lawson Brown outlined that the city had awaited the promised improvements to the property that Cheryl Sampson gave the city last August.

But no building permits for improvements or other steps had been taken to improve the property at 402 Clay Street, Brown told the council.

But in an irritated response, starting with a shoutout from the audience, Sampson disagreed with the city officials’ characterization of her failings to bring the property up to code.

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Cheryl Sampson, the owner of property being considered for condemnation, grew increasingly agitated as she addressed Mebane’s city council Monday night. The mayor gaveled several times to ask her to refocus her comments and trim her animosity toward the city’s staff. City attorney Lawson Brown is in the background.

Sampson said she had been recognized for one of the “top 50” restorations in Atlanta several years ago.

She cited health problems, the coronavirus, the cost of lumber, the difficulty of finding a contractor, and the failure to sell a property she owns in Hillsborough as contributing factors to her inability to get started on restoring the Clay Street property.

In a series of louder and louder comments, then tearful references to her “personal challenges,” the property owner said she had purchased other property in the same block, demonstrating her intention to restore the run-down property.

Mayor Ed Hooks gaveled several times, asking Sampson to stay focused on the issue at hand, to maintain proper decorum, and to withhold profanities and insults hurled at city staff.

City attorney Brown focused on the findings from the city’s inspections department, which concluded earlier this year “that the premises . . . are unfit for human habitation, the continuation of the dwelling in its vacated and closed status would be inimical to the health, safety, morals and welfare of the City in that the dwelling will continue to deteriorate, would create a fire and safety hazard, would be a threat to children and vagrants, would attract persons intent on criminal activities, would cause or contribute to blight and deterioration of property values in the area and would render unavailable the property and the dwelling which would otherwise been available to the public for housing.”

Brown also insisted, “The property owner has not performed any work on the dwelling in months, if not years since its purchase. A prior hearing was held on August 4, 2020, at which time a Ms. Cheryl Sampson had requested an extension of time to submit construction drawings, permit applications and the like. As of this date, no submittals of such material have been submitted to the city for consideration,” Brown insisted. He also noted that there has been no water or sewer service to the property since 2015.

During lucid parts of Sampson’s comments, she claimed to have put a new roof on the house, but no one from the city could confirm that assertion.

A Mebane police officer ultimately escorted Sampson out of the council chambers.

Sampson has owned the Clay Street property since May 23, 2019, city manager Chris Rollins told the council, from information he obtained from the county’s GIS system.

Ultimately, the council agreed to the staff’s recommendation for condemnation.  In his motion to approve the condemnation, city councilman Tim Bradley allowed that if improvements were undertaken or permits obtained to begin work, the 91-day deadline for condemnation would be revisited by the city council.

That determination won unanimous 5-0 approval from the city council.

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