After a three month reprieve the Town Planning Commission once again found themselves pondering the fate of the blighted property at 23 Josephine Street. In August the commission held a public hearing to receive comments about their plan to have the property demolished and several residents of Josephine Street appealed to the commission to spare the property. In response, the commission gave the owner, Mr William Woodruff, three months to come up with a blight abatement plan. Last night Town Planner Christy Dunkle told the commission, “We have not received a blight abatement plan and no activity appears to have taken place.”
Mr. Woodruff was in attendance and also told the commission he did not have a plan.
As in earlier meeting, Commission Chair Douglas Shaffer recused himself from discussions about the property. Shaffer had bid against Mr. Woodruff when the property was last sold and recused himself to avoid any possibility of a conflict of interest.
Robert Ferrebee took the chair in Shaffer’s absence and asked if anyone on the commission had any questions. Linda Canterbury responded, “As far as I’m concerned we move it forward.”
Ms. Canterbury made a motion to forward a recommendation to the Town Council, and Commission Member John Lincoln seconded the motion. Before the commission voted Mr Ferebee addressed Mr. Woodruff and said, “I think we tried to make a reasonable effort Mr. Woodruff, to allow you to come back with something and you’ve failed to do that, as a result I feel like we have no recourse but to forward this on to the Town Council.”
Mr. Woodruff attempted to address the commission in spite of the fact that it was not a public hearing. He indicated that he believed that he was going to be allowed to update the commission on what he had been doing with the property. Ferrebee told him it was not a public hearing but Ms Canterbury responded to Woodruff saying, ” You were supposed to present us with a plan. We were expecting a plan from you to be presented at this meeting. That was very clear.”
When it was put to a vote the motion to forward the blight abatement plan to the Town Council was passed unanimously.
The Town Council will now need to consider the issue. The recommendation provided by the town manager is that the property be demolished. If the Town Council proceeds with the action and Mr. Woodruff is unable to demolish the property, the town will have the property demolished and bill Mr. Woodruff for the cost incurred. However before the town can consider the abatement plan it they will have to set a public hearing on the matter.
Also up for discussion were the state of sidewalks in the town, particularly on Josephine Street. Kenneth Liggins, a resident of Josephine Street and President of the Josephine Improvement Association, used the citizens forum at the meeting to ask that the commission consider much needed repairs to the street and sidewalks on Josephine Street. “I would like for you all to include in your ordinance the repairing of our sidewalk, curb and gutter as well as our street because it is in desperate need of repair, just like Mr. Woodruff’s house is.”
Town Manager Keith Dalton addressed the council and explained that the issue has been in process with the Streets and Utilities Committee and that he had engaged in discussions with VDOT. While certain issues were identified on Josephine Street the town was looking at the entire community concerning repairs. Portions of Church Street were identified as well but there is some confusion as to who owns the right-of-way in that particular instance which would determine who is responsible for the repairs. That issue is currently being investigated and the town expects to hear back from VDOT shortly.
On Josephine Street some repairs had already been made. Keith Dalton also indicated there there were approximately 6 individual sections and one larger section that needs repairs. Issues of drainage and entrance aprons were also discussed.
Dalton said, “At the end of the day it’s going to be a matter of where our resources can be applied. We will do what we can do.”
Mr. Liggins took issue with the assessment that spot repairs are needed. “The entire street of Josephine sidewalks needs to be repaired.” He cited VDOT standards and said,”The head curb needs to be replaced, the sidewalk is separating, so the entire street not just a few blocks needs to be repaired.”
The Commission discussed the issue and commission member John Lincoln asked, “Is it appropriate to reflect these concerns in our records?”
Commission Chair Shaffer responded, “I think we can tell VDOT what we want to tell them. Then VDOT is going to do what VDOT is going to do because it’s VDOT money. But certainly these are things that we should point out that we are knowledgeable of, and that’s the best way to approach it.”