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Ahoskie landmark may come tumbling down

AHOSKIE – An Ahoskie landmark may be reduced to rubble.

The only person who can prevent that from occurring is reportedly nowhere to be found.

In a debate that began in July of last year over the deterioration of the old Tomahawk Restaurant located on North Academy Street, it appears that town officials will now proceed with condemnation procedures on the aging building. That process will eventually lead to the demolition of the single-story brick structure, once a popular eatery for locals and those passing through town.

At their Tuesday meeting, members of the Ahoskie Town Council were brought up-to-date on the Tomahawk issue by town building inspector Keith Truman.

“There’s no remodeling work currently being performed on the building and there’s no sign of Mr. (Mohammad) Abid (the property owner),” Truman said. “We’ve made several unsuccessful attempts to contact Mr. Abid.”

Truman said the town sent a certified letter to Abid’s mailing address in March, but it was returned unclaimed. Truman added he has personally knocked on the door of Abid’s Ahoskie apartment, but no one answered.

“I haven’t seen his vehicle at his apartment since February,” Truman noted.

Last month, Truman said Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond was able to speak with Abid by telephone at which time a “face-to-face” meeting was arranged. However, Abid failed to show up for that meeting.

“He knows we’re looking for him, but has not contacted us after repeated efforts,” Truman said.

Truman then reminded council members of last year’s dealings with Abid. In July, council members learned that the old restaurant, despite Abid’s previous renovation efforts, had been deemed unsafe and that its deteriorating conditions constituted a public nuisance. E.G. Swanner, Ahoskie’s building inspector at the time, was of the opinion that the old restaurant should be torn down.

Abid filed the appropriate paperwork that appealed Swanner’s opinion, requesting 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.

At its September 2008 meeting, Ahoskie Council members granted Abid a 90-day window to show progress on renovating the building.

“Some of that worked started, but it has now stopped,” Truman said at Tuesday’s meeting. “One of the contractors working on the roof told me he has yet to be paid for his work.”

He went on to add that another Ahoskie project by Abid, a restaurant on Memorial Drive, closed last month after operating for a short period of time.

Referencing several state statutes, Truman then outlined the process Ahoskie officials can use to condemn and demolish the old Tomahawk Restaurant. That process includes sending Abid a written notice concerning a condemnation hearing (to be held no later than 10 days from the date on the notice), posting a copy of the notice on the building 10 days prior to the hearing and publishing a newspaper notice concerning the hearing no less than one week prior to the event.

Following the hearing, Truman said he had the authority to order the building demolished within 60 days. If Abid does not appeal the process within 10 days after that order is written, the demolition decision becomes final.

Truman said he estimated the demolition costs in the $30,000-to-$40,000 range. To recoup that money, the town will place a tax lien on the property, meaning Abid cannot sell it until the lien is satisfied.

On a motion by Councilman Ronald Gatling, a condemnation hearing is scheduled for May 13.

Hammond said if Abid does appeal, the issue will be placed on the Council’s June agenda for discussion.