Eyesore or landmark?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 16, 2008

AHOSKIE – Town officials see the aging Tomahawk Restaurant as an eyesore; Mohammad Abid sees it as a chance to restore a historic landmark.

Neither side in this ongoing issue has yet to find common ground. On one hand, Ahoskie officials want to see the eyesore removed. On the other, Abid wishes to use up to three years to save and restore what once was a thriving business on Academy Street as well as one of Ahoskie’s most endearing landmarks.

However, the now empty restaurant is showing signs of aging, so much to the point that in May of this year, Ahoskie Code Enforcement Officer E.G. Swanner deemed the building unsafe as well as finding that its deteriorating conditions constituted a public nuisance.

In his May 14 visit to the old restaurant, Swanner documented that although the brick and block walls were in sound condition, the overhang and fascia were in various stages of collapse and disrepair. He noted that the roof and sheathing had been removed, as part of a still active permit obtained by Abid. Swanner also said there were bushes and weeds growing up around the building.

By the end of May, Abid had corrected some of the problem areas. A revisit by Swanner noted that the overhangs and windows had been repaired and painted while the bushes and weeds were removed.

Additionally, Abid filed the appropriate paperwork that appealed Swanner’s opinion of ordering the building removed. In that appeal, Abid requested an opportunity to save the landmark by giving him three years to complete the work. He promised to keep the property and the building “clean and presentable” during that period of time.

“Mr. Abid started this (restoration) process two years ago,” Swanner told Ahoskie Town Council members at their July 8 meeting. “To date, the town has sent him five letters dealing with the condition of the building and the grounds. He appears to be trying to dress it (property) up, but it seems he’s not getting anywhere.”

Abid was scheduled to be at last week’s Town Council meeting where he reportedly was going to ask for a delay in the town’s condemnation process. He did not attend that meeting.

However, Abid does have the right to seek legal action to delay the process. According to Swanner, Abid has spoken with an attorney and said he will take this to court if necessary.

Meanwhile, Swanner said that Abid wants to enter into a voluntary contract with the town, one that he promises to keep the building fixed-up while he seeks financing to fully restore the property.

“He has done some painting and has added some new boards, but the roof is falling in and the weeds are back,” Councilwoman Elaine Myers said. “It’s an eyesore.”

Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond suggested tabling the condemnation issue until the Council’s August meeting.

“Let’s see if we can get Mr. Abid and his attorney at that meeting so we can work out a contract,” Hammond said.

Councilman Ronald Gatling said he thought the August timeline was too quick. He recommended giving Abid until September to come-up with a plan of action.

“He’ll need to keep that property maintained until then,” Hammond stressed.

Gatling made his suggestion into a motion, one that passed without objection.