Zebulon looking for closure on unsafe property

amoody@newsobserver.comJune 6, 2014 

Zebulon Planning Director Mark Hetrick posts one of several unsafe signs on the 116 N. Arendell Ave. property in January.

AARON MOODY — amoody@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— The clock reset on the deadline for corrective action to be made to an unsafe downtown Zebulon property when it came under new ownership in April.

Town leaders have now devised a plan to avoid that happening again, hoping to bring closure to nearly four years of noncompliance at 116 N. Arendell Ave. The building has 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.

Wake County real estate records show Dayana Christal Nunez Coyt purchased the 960-square-foot space April 24 for $3,000 from Wilhelm Marsh, who owned the property at the time it was deemed unsafe by Wake County building inspectors in 2010. The total assessed value of the property is $14,589 according to the real estate records.

At the time of the sale, Marsh was facing a May 16 deadline to fix issues with the building or have the town take on that authority through condemnation.

Mayor Bob Matheny was quick to speak up at a meeting last week after Planning Chief Mark Hetrick recommended restarting the condemnation process for Coyt. Due process gives property owners 10 days notice of a public hearing and then no less than 60 days to take corrective action.

“This could have been, and I don’t know that it is, but it could’ve been a defensive sale to buy more time and prevent us pursuing the work done there,” Matheny said at the meeting.

Matheny asked town attorney Eric Vernon if it was possible for the condemnation process to run with the land, rather than the property owner. Vernon’s reply was that the town should give the new owner the same due process as anyone else.

“We really don’t want to be the judge and jury on whether this was a sham transaction, so I’d rather not have an attorney challenge the town on that,” Vernon said.

Matheny said he wasn’t trying to avoid due process altogether; that he wanted to find a method to keep defensive sales from affecting the process going forward. Vernon said that was possible.

“We could make sure there is some sort of notice that is put on the public record,” Vernon told the town board. “One of the problems with the process that we have right now is that it’s all personal. We send a notice to the address, we post the specific property, but we don’t have anything that a person would find on the public record.

“ ... To me, it just fixes an issue that the ordinance, the way it’s written today, didn’t contemplate. ... If we post a notice, it is deemed to be public notice and would protect the town’s ability to take action and fix the dangerous situation.”

Vernon said it would make most sense to add the notice after a public hearing on the violation.

If the property owner doesn’t fix the issues by the deadline set by the town, the town has the right to make necessary corrections and place a lien on the building, sell it and use proceeds to repay the process, Vernon said.

Similar to his experiences dealing with Marsh, Hetrick told the board he has had difficulty getting in contact with Coyt.

“I tried to contact the property owner several times via phone, however I was unable to get them,” Hetrick said.

Commissioners gave planning staff the OK to proceed with another notice for a hearing of violation for the property.

“The fun continues,” Matheny said.

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

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