30-day reprieve

Published 3:29 pm Saturday, July 12, 2014

Worn down by time and weather, the once-stately Tomahawk Restaurant in Ahoskie sits as a rotting eyesore on one of the town’s main thoroughfares. Town officials and residents want the building either reconstructed or demolished. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

Worn down by time and weather, the once-stately Tomahawk Restaurant in Ahoskie sits as a rotting eyesore on one of the town’s main thoroughfares. Town officials and residents want the building either reconstructed or demolished. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

AHOSKIE – The dictionary defines ‘venerable’ as ‘commanding respect because of age or noble character’.

Sadly, the Tomahawk Restaurant has lost the most of the latter because of the former.

The Ahoskie Town Council at its July 8 meeting heard from the once-proud Academy Street eatery’s owner as to why no progress on renovation has been made to the building; and they also heard from Paul Vaughan, the town’s new Code Enforcement Officer and Building Inspector, who feels in its current state it should be demolished.

Mohammed Abid has owned the restaurant for the better part of seven years.  Five years ago, the building was within a month’s notice of demolition before the Town Council at that time opted to delay the condemnation procedure if Abid would draw-up a legally-binding contract detailing the structural improvement work he would have performed on the building. Additionally, the major issue at that time was that the building was situated on the town’s main thoroughfare (US 13/Academy Street) and was an eyesore. Abid was urged to at least make cosmetic improvements to the exterior because the building had been deemed unsafe and its deteriorating conditions constituted a public nuisance.

Tuesday, Abid spoke to Council during public comments. He said he was never told back in 2009 when he spoke with the town’s then-Building Inspector, Keith Truman, that the building was not salvageable.  Instead, he was told the roof needed to be replaced.

“I took off the old roof, hollowed out the building, and I started to put on a new roof, and on certain parts there is a new roof,” Abid explained.

It was during that renovation period that Abid said he had to address a family issue, the responsibilities of which he says precluded further improvements.  Following taking care of that business he says he bought new windows that are on premise, but were never installed.

“This is not hazardous or anything,” Abid declared. “Our new inspector never had access to go and check the building and see how it looks like inside.  He doesn’t know anything what is inside and how the building looks inside (but) outside he might.”

Abid indicated there was a condemnation notice from the town’s new building inspector.

“I have a request for the council,” Abid implored. “If you could give me a little more time to do it, work is in progress, and I am trying to get possible estimates.”

Vaughan was next to speak and he then detailed the reasons for his decision on condemnation.

“The condition of the building from what I’ve seen is in a very dilapidated condition,” Vaughan said. “The new roof was put on in April of 2011, about one-third of a roof, and the remainder of the building doesn’t have a roof. The grass is growing up through the asphalt.”

Vaughan reminded the council that in 2008 they had given Abid three years to get the building in good shape.

“From that period to this only a third of a roof has been put on,” Vaughan said. “So the building in my estimation is in pretty bad shape. It’s an eyesore.”

Vaughan then cited state statute that gave him the authority to attach a notice, or sign, of the building’s danger to the public; but he says Abid removed the sign and brought it to the inspector’ office.

“So I put another sign up and that sign went missing,” Vaughan maintained.

Abid interrupted and claimed the sign was hanging, at which time Vaughan cited that it’s a Class-1 misdemeanor offense under North Carolina law for the sign/notice to be removed.

“I tried to emphasize to Mr. Abid how serious it is to take that sign off,” Vaughan stated. “And looking back through some of the history of the building going back to 2006, I really don’t see any progress on the building other than a third of the roof, so in my opinion the building is in pretty dilapidated condition.”

Councilwoman Linda Blackburn asked for clarification on the timeline for Abid to put a new roof on the building.

“Are you saying just a third of the roof has been replaced,” Blackburn inquired.

“Just a third since 2008,” repeated Vaughan. “And that permit was purchased back in 2010.  The first inspection was back in 2011 and from what I’m seeing, nothing has been done since.”

By way of rebuttal, Abid says he brought the condemnation notice/sign to the inspections office because he feared it would be vandalized in its worn state.

“I brought it to his office so it could be put back because I don’t have a stapler,” Abid explained. “Just as he mentioned, he put up a new one, and someone took it down, but I did not see who did it.  I was working out of town so I would not lose it.”

None of the Council members had further questions of either Abid or the inspector; after which Mayor Brien Lassiter said the staff recommendation was that the issue be placed on Council agenda for the month of August so that action could be taken.  Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse made a motion to table the matter until that time and add it to the August agenda, seconded by Blackburn.

“What can the gentleman do until that time to show Council this time that he has good intentions?” asked Councilman Charles Freeman.

Vaughan said a detailed list and drawings had been sent to Abid by former building inspector Keith Truman detailing what had to be done.

“The main thing was a plan of action,” reiterated Vaughan. “He sent the drawings showing what his intention was to bring the building out of such a dilapidated state.  I recommend that he submit those drawings.”

Vaughan added that because it is a structural issue, there has to be a seal by an engineer.

Town Manager Tony Hammond recommended that a ten-day order of demolition attached to the Final Notice letter sent to Abid earmarking the restaurant to be torn down be withdrawn until the matter is discussed by Council at its meeting next month.  Blackburn made a motion that Council temporarily withdraws the demolition order, seconded by Stackhouse.