Town Moves Process Forward to Demolish Josephine Street Property

Property at 23 Josephine Street Berryville, VA - Photo Mike Dowling

Urban blight is a term that evokes visions of inner city slums and rust belt decay, but blighted properties are found in almost every urban area and Berryville is working to deal with several of their own. At the July meeting of the Town Planning Commission, Town Manger Keith Dalton stood before the board and presented four properties that have spawned complaints from citizens for appearance and safety. The properties brought to the attention of the board varied in degree of decay, as well as their status in the process of blight abatement. A property on Main Street had already been removed from the list for compliance, two others in the town were still in process, but a fourth property located on Josephine Street had fallen silent and was now the subject of scrutiny by the board.

23 Josephine Street was sold at auction approximately 5 years ago and Mr. Dalton told the board,”The lady that had lived there had been incarcerated and the property was sold at auction and the gentleman who owns it now purchased it as an investment property.” The Town Manager said that the owner had been responsive early in the process and felt he had dealt with the blight issue, mowing and cleaning up the property. He expressed plans to renovate the property in the future. However Mr. Dalton said, “These measures are not enough.”

The Town Manager presented a series of photographs that showed a property that is in severe decay. The front of the building is boarded up and secure, but large portions of the structure have no roof and much of the rear of the structure cannot be secured. He summarized by saying, “This is not minor stuff.”

After meeting with the owner on-site, the town sent a letter to the owner requesting abatement or an abatement plan for the property dated June 8, 2011. The town has received no response to that request. Based on the failure to respond the Town Manager sought to advance the process, “I do ask that a public hearing be set on this property. After that public hearing I would have to present to you a plan and I can tell you the plan that I will present to you would be for demolition.”

Under Town of Berryville code Section 5-5 “Spot Blight Abatement,” if the Town Manger makes a determination that a property is blighted the process is this; the Town Manager sends a letter to the property owner that gives them thirty days to either address the blight or to develop a written blight abatement plan. If that person fails to submit said plan or fails to submit a plan that meet the need, then the Town Manager submits to the Planning Commission to set a public hearing on whether or not the property is blighted. If the property is determined to be blighted then a recommendation is made to the Town Council. The council would then vote on whether to proceed with the Planning Commissions recommendation.   In this case, if the recommendation to demolish is advanced, the town would hire a contractor to have the structure removed and then charge the costs back to the property owner.

Planning Commission Chair, Doug Schaffer raised a question regarding the level of effort that is put onto property owners regarding the requested abatement plan. “Just so I understand it as we move through these discussions, this plan that you ask for on abatement, this isn’t some big fancy engineers plan and architectural dream, this is simply ‘I’m going to do this and I will correct some of these items right now.'”

Keith Dalton confirmed that is was not a complex legal document, “That’s correct. What I ask for are the actions that will be taken on the property and the time frame.”

In the absence of a response from the property owner the Planning Commission was faced with a vote for a public hearing on whether or not the property is blighted. Mr. Dalton described the Public Hearing process for this saying, “The public hearing takes it out of the realm of being a decision by staff, the initial determination is mine but after that it becomes your determination and then recommendation to the town council.” He added, “It’s a very good process. It’s probably a little lengthier than surrounding property owners would prefer, but this is a serious issue. An issue this serious deserves a hearing before folks such as yourselves who have been appointed by council and people who have been elected. That’s the reason for this process.”

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to hold a Public Hearing on the matter. The hearing is scheduled for the next meeting of   the Planning Commission, at which time the board will determine their final recommendation to the Town Council.


  1. R afraid of town retaliation says:

    How about the one on Liberty St.? I bet they did this in retaliation for the Federal Grand Jury issue disputing improper annexation

  2. Oh yes, the “improper annexation” defense. I didn’t remember that one. Been a while since we heard from you! What is it about town water, sewer, and trash pickup you don’t like?

  3. Naked Truth says:

    So all you need is an abatement plan, and you can continue to breed rats in your run-down vacant house? There are several blighted houses on this street. What about the house on Liberty st? These structures are beyond repair. I can’t believe other homeowners have to put up with filth like this in their neighborhood.

    Mike Dowling: Actually the property on Liberty Street was one of the other properties that was discussed at the meeting but that property is still “in process.” The owner has pulled permits for demolition in the past and the town said they were continuing to work with the owner.

  4. CDN, if you wanted to show a blighted property – you really should have chosen the Liberty street location. At least this house you’ve shown on Josephine street is still relatively tidy looking, although boarded up. The house on Liberty is literally crumbling into the street, the surrounding orange plastic fencing is even a wreck.There is nothing to be done with this house but tearing it down, and the sooner the better.

    It is amazing to me that there is a house directly across the street from the Liberty shack that is renting for over a thousand dollars a month. I wonder who wants to pay that kind of money to live across from an abandoned shack?

    • Well valerie, if you look at the title of the article, the property in question is the Josephine Street property, not the Liberty Street property. Why would CDN put a picture of a different property than what the article is about? That doesn’t make any sense at all.

    • Brenda L. Barr says:

      Dear Valerie,

      Who would want to pay money to live in that house across the street? ME! I lived there for a year, moving in June because of life changes. I enjoyed living there and having my view of that abandoned shack. I have met the owner several times, even helping him shovel the walk in the snow. Recently the brush was cleared out. I did not care about the view, I was just thankful to have a place to live that was safe.

      I was blessed to have a lovely home with lovely neighbours at a time in my life where nothing was certain for me. I knew that at the end of the day I had a roof over my head and was surrounded by caring people.

      All the best,

      • Naked Truth says:

        I don’t think you would have enjoyed it if you owned the house you rented. I bet the view really decreases the value of the surrounding houses, but as a renter why would you care about that.

        • Brenda L. Barr says:

          Dear Naked Truth,

          Actually, I would have loved to have the opportunity to purchase the house at 110 Liberty, it simply isn’t something I can do right now. I am recently divorced and was happy to have the house to rent!

          I detect a tone of condescension in the wording of your post stating “but as a renter why would you care about that” This was my third home in Berryville, the 1st being our first home purchased on Main Street that was in pretty rough shape, but 20K later it became a suitable home for a family of seven and has been inhabited continually since we moved on. I have worked within the school system, been a girl scout leader, and also contributed to the community…The Peace Pole at Rose Hill? That was our GS Troop.

          I’d love to discuss my life story and why I was a “renter” with you at the Daily Grind some morning. Also, while I’m at it, I’d love to discuss with you The Laurel Center too, and the Blue Ridge Hospice, Habitat for Humanity and why those services are needed and perhaps ask for a donation of your valuable computer time towards making a difference in someone’s life.

          How about this Saturday? At 10am? I’ll know its you despite you being Nameless…you’ll just be another Naked and anonymous person coming in the door.

          See ya then,

          All the best,

  5. Stonebroke says:

    It looks like the junkyard at the end of Walnut St. has finally decided to clean it up a little!

  6. youknowme says:

    How bout the Mercer Oil Building on First Street/ Boom Road By the RR Tracks .. It looks like it is ready to fall down.. They started to demo but that has come to a stop.. This Building is also on the way into The Darbybrooke Homes that are all at least 400K… Tear It Down !!!!

  7. “…The Darbybrooke Homes that are all at least 400K… ”


  8. Complaint Dept says:

    Have any of you written a formal complaint about these other property’s?
    Gone to a meeting and complained about them?

  9. hard for working folk to attend meetings that are held during working hours.