Northampton plans to bump up curb appeal

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 2, 2004

JACKSON – Recently, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners agreed to a proposition to remove certain dilapidated structures in an effort to protect the values of adjoining properties, protect the safety of neighboring residents and enhance the overall appearance of the community.

With an eye toward potential investors, Northampton County Economic Development Director Gary Brown, along with the Community Development Department and Building Inspection Department have been on task to develop strategies for implementing such a plan.

&uot;As you may remember, in the FY 2005 budget,&uot; said Brown addressing the Commissioners, &uot;you have already allotted $30,000 for the removal of such structures determined to be sub-standard, abandoned or otherwise dilapidated located on private property throughout the county.

&uot;So far, the staff has determined the best way to begin this project would be to concentrate on certain growth corridors, which have been strategically identified as NC 46 between Gaston and Garysburg, SR 1200 between NC 46 and NC 48, which serves as the primary access road for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Industrial Center, and US 158 through the county, which is the primary corridor running from east to west,&uot; he said.

Although funds had been specifically allotted to the project during the current budget year, Brown explained that they were not sufficient to effect wholesale removal of the structures throughout the county.

&uot;For planning purposes, the staff estimated removal costs at $3,000 per property,&uot; he said, &uot;and based on that assumption, funding is available to effect structure removal on approximately 10 properties.&uot;

Assuming that additional funds will be allotted to this purpose in future years, the staff proposed the project focus first on removal of structures along the strategic growth corridors and then, subsequently, along the primary highway thoroughfares and secondary roadways.

&uot;This procedure brings primary focus on structure removal in areas that the county has targeted for economic development and along highways that are frequented by both residents and visitors to the county,&uot; said Brown.

The question was raised as to whether or not the project could be implemented by district, to which County Manager Wayne Jenkins responded that it could, but emphasized the importance of concentrating first on areas of the county that the Board has made investments in to encourage economic development.

&uot;I believe this proposal is an equitable one that will ultimately result in county-wide benefit,&uot; said Jenkins.

Removal of substandard structures would follow a survey and condemnation process implemented by the Northampton County Building Inspection Department along with the Northampton County Attorney and the Northampton County Tax Department.

Although the project would be administered by the Northampton County Building Inspection Department, private contractors would be responsible for the demolition and debris removal associated with removing the structures.

According to Brown, the properties in question will be inspected and if found to be unsafe will be labeled with a placard stating that the structure has been condemned, followed by a notice to the property owner regarding a hearing that will be held before the inspector no less than 10 days and not to exceed 30 days after the notice.

During that time, the property owner or any party in interest will have the right to file an answer to the complaint while the inspector will provide written account for the reasons the structure is in violation, giving recommendation to either repair, alter and improve the structure or remove and demolish it within a 60 day period; a decision which is subject to appeal by the owner.

Brown further explained that if the owner of a building failed to comply with the order issued following an appeal, that person would be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and the county would remove the structure and place a lien against the property for whatever costs were incurred with the removal.

&uot;Perhaps when people see these structures being removed, it will spark a chain reaction of motivation for others to do the same,&uot; said Brown.

Commissioner James Boone agreed with the proposal. &uot;We may have better bang for our buck to begin in those areas where we invested. I think it’s a good move for the future of the county’s economic development.&uot;

Tentatively set for the second wave of removal are structures located on NC 35, NC 258, NC 186, NC 305, NC 48 and US 301, though particulars are not final.

Jenkins petitioned the county to consider splitting the $30,000 allotment in half with $15,000 going for the removal of the structures and the other $15,000 going for the clean up of the county.

The board approved the measure with the understanding that the details of the project be worked out in consultation with the County Attorney.