Northampton officials have change of heart

Published 2:28 pm Saturday, March 20, 2010

JACKSON — The Northampton Board of Commissioners will once again look at enforcing the county’s ordinance on a dilapidated structure after a lengthy discussion.

At their recent meeting, Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins presented information regarding a structure to be demolished under the county’s Unsafe Buildings Ordinance. The structure is located on Old Emporia Road, north of Garysburg.

After giving the owners of dilapidated properties opportunities to bring their structures into compliance of the Housing Code, the ordinance allows the county to move ahead with demolishing dilapidated structures and placing a lien against the real property for the cost incurred.

“This property is uninhabitable, the roof is gone, the weeds have grown up (around it),” said Jenkins. “Nothing is taxable there, just land.”

Jenkins said his office had received numerous calls about this particular property.

Commission Vice Chair Fannie Greene said she had received complaints about the property as well.

“It’s definitely an eyesore,” she said.

Commissioner Chester Deloatch voiced opposition to the property being demolished.

Deloatch said he was “500 percent” against the county placing a lien on a citizen’s property.

“They may not be able to pay it,” he said.

He suggested that the ordinance was discriminatory and that he had been to every county in the state and had seen buildings in the same condition.

A vote was taken with Commission Vice Chair James Hester motioning to approve the demolition of the structure. Hester along with Greene, voted to approve the motion while Commissioners Deloatch, Virginia Spruill and Robert Carter objected; thus defeating Hester’s motion.

Jenkins asked the board, noting the action they had just taken, if no more staff time be devoted to enforcing the ordinance.

Greene questioned her colleagues as to how the county would deal with dilapidated buildings.

Spruill said she wanted to see the step by step process before the board.

Jenkins and Greene said the complaints about the property go back three years.

Greene suggested to the board that they bring the issue back.

Spruill objected saying that Greene was only one person on the board and that she could not bring the issue back alone.

“Mrs. Spruill, I understand that,” said Greene.

She continued by asking what her fellow board members felt. Spruill and Deloatch said they did not want to bring issue back before the board, while Greene and Hester said they did.

Deloatch said he recently heard that Bertie County is the fifth poorest county in the state.

“What’s Northampton County? I know it has to be up there,” he said.

“What is the purpose of the ordinance if we’re not going to enforce it,” asked Greene.

“Let’s bring it back,” said Carter.

In February 2008, the commissioners passed the ordinance in a 3-1 vote, with Commissioners Greene, Hester and Carter voting yes and Commissioner Deloatch objecting. A vote from Commissioner Spruill was not recorded as she was apparently absent.