Berryville’s efforts to improve the town through blight abatement succeeded in the elimination of what several town officials characterized as the most hazardous property on their list. The dilapidated property on First Street that often shed debris into the road way was taken down over the weekend. Owner Scott Mercer told the Berryville Planning Commission last month that the property was scheduled to be demolished but the challenging location, wedged between the railroad tracks and First Street, had been a problem. After two contractors hired by Mr Mercer failed to complete the project he told the commission he was going to take care of it himself.
His efforts were successful. Saturday crews were on site with a crane demolishing the structure from the top down. It has now been reduced to a pile of debris.
This marks the second of three properties that the town has identified as blighted that have been demolished. The first to fall was the property on Liberty Street which was torn down by the owner in late September. The property on First Street marks number two, however the Planning Commission will now have to return to the first property identified in this recent series of actions because it’s owner has failed to comply.
Action on the property at 23 Josephine Street drew a large crowd to the public hearing in August to protest the Town’s planned actions. At that time the Town had attempted to develop a blight abatement plan with the property owner William Woodruff but had been unable to resolve the matter so the issue was brought before the Planning Commission. More than twenty residents attended the meeting and a half-dozen speakers stood before the commission to voice their opposition to the proposed demolition of the property at 23 Josephine Street.
Mr Woodruff said economic hardship prevented him from taking any actions to improve the property. After lengthy discussions the Commission agreed to give the property owner three additional months to come up with a reasonable abatement plan. It included a caveat that Mr Woodruff work with Town staff prior to the November deadline so that all parties could work together to develop a plan that was acceptable for everyone.
However month by month town officials have repeatedly indicated that Mr Woodruff has been silent and as of the Friday before the November Planning meeting, the Town has received no response from the property owner.
The issue will now be addressed without an agreed upon abatement plan at the Planning Commission Meeting Tuesday November 22.