Tomahawk condemned

Published 8:39 am Thursday, August 14, 2014

AHOSKIE – Its time, like the patience of those who sought to save it, may have finally run out.

After giving owner Mohammed Abid a 30-day extension to show some viable progress toward repair of the landmark, the Ahoskie Town Council unanimously Tuesday voted to accept the town inspector’s recommendation that the Tomahawk Restaurant be condemned.

Abid was told that some sort of progress must be made on renovations before the August Council meeting, but as of Thursday, Aug. 7 none had been noted beyond providing a hand-drawn diagram of ‘proposed’ renovations.  The drawing was not the engineer-approved plan that town Building Inspector Paul Vaughan had requested.

In a debate that began in July of 2008 over the deterioration of the old restaurant located on North Academy Street, it appears that town officials will now proceed with condemnation procedures on the aging building. That process will probably eventually lead to the demolition of the single-story brick structure, once a popular eatery for locals and those passing through town.

Earlier, Council members noted that despite Abid’s previous renovation efforts, the building had been deemed unsafe and that its deteriorating conditions constituted a public nuisance. Building inspectors going back to 2008 and E.G. Swanner, Ahoskie’s building inspector at the time, have been of the opinion that the old restaurant should be torn down.

Previously, Abid filed the appropriate paperwork appealing that opinion and requesting an opportunity to save the landmark by being given time to complete the work; and during that time he promised to keep the property and the building “clean and presentable”.

That was five years – and three known extensions – ago.

On Tuesday, Vaughan made a slideshow presentation to Council showing some improvement that was done in 2009, but since then the photos showed that nothing had been done to date. Vaughan also presented a hand-written work schedule that Abid submitted stating the remaining deteriorated roof would be removed by the end of August; that windows would be replaced by the end of September; and additional roof work beyond that date was dependent on a PNC Bank loan for which Abid had applied and was awaiting a decision.

Vaughan told Council, when asked, that the hand-drawn work diagram and work plan fell short of what they had requested at the July meeting.

Abid addressed Council and stated the reasons for his delay in the fix-up were due to attending to a personal family matter and that he has returned to Ahoskie to oversee the restoration of the property.  He also said he had applied for a loan to assist in the cost of the repairs.

“Once I get the loan it won’t take more than two months to finish the whole thing,” Abid said.

Abid appealed to Council, referring to the Tomahawk as a “historic building”.

“We don’t want to demolish that,” he implored. “We want to save it. Instead of demolition, why not spend the money to rebuild the building.”

He further pledged that he could complete the work with a crew of 15, emphasized the building’s historic significance, and said that roof repair was the major obstacle to finishing.

Councilwoman Linda Blackburn, acting as mayor pro-tem, expressed empathy, but no pledge of support.

“As long as I’ve been on Council we’ve been dealing with this issue,” she said. “I understand, but I think that there’s nothing you’ve seen from this Council but that we’ve tried to work with you.”

Councilwoman Elaine Myers asked Abid his goal for the building and he stated that he wanted it to be a restaurant and a meeting-party hall, free of charge for the town’s use.

Abid said that he had spent over $50,000 of his own money in restoration with some items waiting to be installed.

When asked the status of his loan, Abid said it was still being processed.

Councilman Charles Freeman along with Myers expressed disappointment in Abid’s presentation.

“It’s not an engineered plan,” Myers said.

Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse said instructions were clearly given, but not followed.

“I’ve said prayer about it,” Stackhouse said. “We gave directions and that has not been done.  I’ve heard and listened and I don’t know what else to do.”

“I’ve dreamed this along with you, and we all have wanted to see this happen,” said Blackburn. “But it’s come to a point where this is just continuing and it’s time now to move ahead.”

For clarification, Council was informed that the building was clear of taxes and had $58, 607 in property value and $3,824 on the building for a total tax value of $62,431.

Town Manager Tony Hammond said the cost of removal of the building would be between $18,000 and $22,000 with only $10,000 approved in the current budget for all condemnations for the 2014-15 fiscal year.  He further informed Council that if they allowed condemnation to proceed that the cost of removal could be attached as a tax lien against the property and collected from the owner upon the property being sold.

From the audience, Ahoskie businessman Hal Daniels asked how much more could be done.

“What could be accomplished in the next few short months that hasn’t been accomplished in the last eight years,” he inquired.

“You have a difficult decision to make,” Blackburn stated to her fellow council members.

Abid argued that he didn’t need the designs of a structural engineer, but Vaughan cited a state statute which disputed that.

“This building’s over 7,190 square feet,” said Vaughan. “The code says if a building is over 2,500 square feet, then I do have the authority to request document items with a seal by a structural engineer.”

Stackhouse then made a motion, seconded by Freeman, to provide direction to the Building Inspector to proceed with the condemnation.

The motion passed unanimously.

Abid still has 10 days to appeal the decision in writing, but none had been made as of 3 p.m. Aug. 13.  The appeal would first have to go through Hertford County then back to the Town of Ahoskie.  If Abid does not appeal, then the decision of the Council authorizing condemnation is final.