Timeline set for owner of vacant downtown Zebulon property

amoody@newsobserver.comFebruary 18, 2014 

This photo, taken in October, 2013, shows where a roof once existed and a portion of the inside of the 116 N. Arendell Ave. property, from back to front.

TOWN OF ZEBULON

— The owner of a dilapidated downtown building has expressed his intent to significantly improve his property now that the town is pursuing condemnation on that property, Zebulon officials say.

That’s a significant step forward for the town, which received no reply to numerous letters and phone calls to the property owner for two years prior to this month.

Wilhelm Marsh will have no more than 90 days, from the time a written order is planned to be issued this week, to correct several nuisance and safety violations on his 116 N. Arendell Ave. property. The violations date back to 2010, when Wake County building inspectors initially deemed the 960-square-foot structure unsafe.

Ongoing issues with the property include boarded-up doors windows, loose brickwork, debris and trash accumulation inside, freestanding walls with no roof, and as a result, stagnant water and the potential for health issues.

Town officials presented Marsh three corrective options at a hearing Feb. 7 – demolish the structure, brace the structure, or secure it by replacing windows and doors and, if possible, replacing the roof. Marsh was given 10 days to appeal the order to the board of commissioners, but Zebulon Planning Director Mark Hetrick said that Marsh aims to carry out the most corrective of the options.

“He indicated he would at least replace all the windows and doors, front and side and rear, in the first 30 days and replace the roof within the second 30 days,” Hetrick said. “The statute gives him not less than 60 days to make the needed corrections to the building.

“We have to give him 60 days, but we don’t foresee having to give him more than 90 days for those improvements to be done.”

If Marsh has shown no intention of fixing the property after 60 days pass, Hetrick said the issue will go back before the town board to see how it wants to proceed.

“The town would then place a lien on the property and proceed to make the corrective option the commissioners choose,” Hetrick said. “We’ve taken the three options to the commissioners before in previous meetings, but there was never a formal decision because they were hoping the property owner would take it upon himself to take action.”

Condemnation process

Condemnation would give the town the ability to make the needed improvements and bill Marsh for the work. Marsh would still retain ownership of the property.

Hetrick said the building condemnation process began when he posted several signs on the boarded windows and doors designating the structure unsafe on Jan. 10. Town attorney Eric Vernon on Jan. 13 sent a letter notifying Marsh of the posting, and from that date Marsh had 14 days to bring the property into compliance.

No improvements we made by Jan. 27, but Marsh spoke with planning staff prior to that deadline and met with him in person on Jan. 28, Hetrick said.

“That’s when we handed him the letter summing up nothing was done from the time of the attorney’s letter to the time we met with him,” Hetrick said. “If nothing’s done in those 14 days, you have to schedule a hearing.”

The 60-to-90-day deadline means Marsh will have to fix his property by mid-April or mid-May, or have the town take over that authority.

Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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