Condemnation ordinance approved

Published 8:56 am Thursday, October 3, 2013

By Caroline Stephenson


WINTON – Approved.

At the most recent meeting of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, they unanimously approved condemnation ordinance.  The ordinance was originally set for approval at the prior Commissioners meeting held on Sept. 3, but it was tabled for further review.  The ordinance was placed back on the agenda after some “minor cosmetic changes” were made, according to County Manager Loria Williams.

The opening paragraph of the ordinance reads as follows.  “The intent of this ordinance is to remedy the long standing issue of buildings or other conditions that pose a danger to the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Hertford County.  Whereas the county is permitted to act in accordance with NC General Statues 153A, 366-371, and 153A-40 to remove, abate, remedy, or condemn any buildings that are deemed uninhabitable or a public health or safety issue by the Building Inspector in consult with the Hertford County Fire Marshall.”

Priority sites will be those close to residences, schools and businesses. This ordinance does not apply to agricultural barns, shelters, sheds, and the like unless the health, safety, and general welfare of the public is endangered.

Special provisions are made in the ordinance about publicly and privately owned buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and listed with the State Historic Preservation Office.

The Building Inspector, in conjunction with the Hertford County Fire Marshall, will recommend condemnation, removal, abatement, or remedy of anything that is dangerous to public health in accordance with NC General Statutes.  The property will be posted with a notice on the main entrance of the structure.  Notification of this posting will be sent in a letter to the owner/s by certified mail.  A hearing will be held no later than 10 days after the date of the notice.  In cases where the owner/s cannot be located, notice of a hearing will be published in the local newspaper at least once and no later than one week prior to the hearing.

The property owner will attend the hearing along with the Building Inspector, Fire Marshall, Planning Director, and County Manager. Following the hearing and based on its outcome, the Building Inspector may issue an order to repair, close, vacate, or demolish the building within 60 days. However, if there is imminent danger to life or other property, the Building Inspector may lessen the length of time in which corrective action must be taken. Each property will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

The property owner may appeal his/her case to the Hertford County Board of Commissioners up to 10 days after the hearing determination. If the property owner does not appeal within the allotted amount of time, then the decision of the hearing is final.  The Chair of the Board of Commissioners, however, must sign every condemnation order, before any demolition can begin.

The owner/s of condemned property has the option of demolishing, cleaning up, or disposing of the structure at a permitted landfill.  Demolition permits are required before any work can begin.  If the owner cannot be located or cannot comply with the condemnation order, the County may initiate the removal or demolition of the structure.  A lien will be placed against the property for all removal or demolition-related costs.

Prior to approving the condemnation ordinance, Hertford County has been operating solely under the provisions of North Carolina General Statues 153A, 366-371 and 153A-40.  This newly approved ordinance was initiated to better fit the specific needs of the County in regards to public safety.

Will every “eyesore” be demolished immediately now that Hertford County has a condemnation ordinance?  Not likely, unless significant health risk is posed to surrounding buildings, businesses, or schools.

In surrounding counties, Gates has a condemnation ordinance and Northampton has an unsafe building ordinance. Bertie County has neither, but utilizes state building codes as standards for enforcement.