Plant B remains public hazard

City Council to discuss Monday
Dec. 14, 2012 @ 02:08 PM

Thomasville City Council continues to wait for a plan of action on a year-long saga concerning an abandoned building.
City Hall reports no updates on the status of the former Thomasvile Furniture Industries Plant B site on Fisher Street. The matter is in the hands of attorneys. Thomasville City Council has chased a resolution to the dilapidated eyesore for more than a year, and with 2012 coming to end, the questions of who will demolish what has been deemed a public safety hazard and when are far from being answered.
“This has been a long, drawn out affair, and it still hasn’t ended, that’s for sure,” said  Councilman Raleigh York. “There’s not anything new that I’m aware of.”
City Manager Kelly Craver said the same options the city faced a year ago regarding the condemned former furniture plant remain: tear it down at taxpayer’s expense, resolve the matter with property owner Jeff Schwarz or keep the site secure and do nothing.
“There really is no progress right now,” Craver said. “There are no new developments at this point in time. Right now, it’s still up in the air.”
Paying for the demolition with tax dollars still is the final option.
“We can condemn it, demolish it and have the taxpayers pay for the demolition, which is not something that in any way, shape or form is the right thing to do,” said Craver.
Public safety at the site came to the forefront in November. Vagrants compromised a section of protective fence on Carmalt Street, entered the plant, a 100-year building riddled with broken windows, and in an effort to stay warm started a fire on the second floor, said Fire Inspector Rocky Watts.
Thomasville Fire Department responded to the site on Nov. 1 to put out the fire, which burned a hole down to the first floor. Following his investigation of the small blaze, Watts said the building is a safety hazard that needs to be demolished.
Craver said a pair of city workers easily repaired the compromised section of fence a few weeks ago.
York said City Attorney Paul Mitchell is studying council’s legal options concerning the site and expects an update at Monday’s monthly council meeting.
“The [city] attorney is working on some things now for us,” York said. “It sounds like it might be [a matter for attorneys].”
On Oct. 18, Mitchell said city inspector Mike Cranford gave Schwarz 60 days to rectify the situation. The deadline expires on Tuesday, and Mitchell, who plans to  provide an update during closed session Monday night, said that if nothing is done, he will advise the council to move forward legally. Mitchell could not provide specifics as to what the course of action will be.
“The fact that I’m going to be in closed session means there will be attorney-client privileges,” said Mitchell. “There is going be some discussions on options, what to do and when to do it.”
Mitchell said that under North Carolina law council could pass an ordinance ordering the property owner to demolish the structure. The property owner would then have 90 days to comply.
“This is real high on our radar,” Mitchell said. “I would expect a hearing fairly quickly as to what [council] decide to do for the public. At the end of the day, if we order them to demolish and they don’t, the city can go ahead and demolish it, which would put a lien on the property. Or the city could secure it until something develops and someone buys it. We haven’t seen any affirmative action yet. ”      
Schwarz Properties, LLC, of Asheboro reacquired the property in May after losing it to foreclosure in 2011. After speaking with Schwarz representatives, several council members at the time expressed optimism that the building finally would be demolished. Other than the company putting up a temporary protective fence, little has changed seven months later. Paying for the demolition would cost the city approximately $400.000. Placing a lien on the site, which rests on a floodplain, isn’t expected to yield a fraction of the demolitions costs.
“That’s one of the challenging aspects of this case,” said Mitchell. “I don’t think that property is going to bring $400,000. This council has things it would rather spend that money on. It’s money we don’t have to spend. We’re going to try and get around that one way or the other. We’re trying to find some way to make this work. This is an unusual case with unusual aspects.”

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or duke@tvilletimes.com.