The recent demolition of a home on Park Avenue has Lewes officials rethinking the city’s approach to condemnations of derelict homes in the historic district.
Earlier this year, building official Robin Davis issued a condemnation notice for the home at 323 Park Ave., a small white cottage across from Shipcarpenter Square two doors away from St. George AME Church. The home had been vacant for 30 years and fallen into grave disrepair.
The property was sold prior to demolition; however, the new owner bore the responsibility to remove the home within the required 60 days of the condemnation notice.
Historic Preservation Architectural Review Commission Chair Barbara Warnell said she would’ve liked to see her group consulted prior to the home being condemned to find out if the property could have been salvaged and restored.
The new owner of the property met with City Manager Ann Marie Townshend and a few HPARC members, who made a preservation pitch; however, the owner told the group he had no plans to build on the property for about five years, meaning nothing could be done to save the existing building within the condemnation time frame.
“We need to ask mayor and city council for requirements of intervention so that demolition by neglect cannot happen,” she said. “An unoccupied structure may need to be monitored and made sure it’s kept secure, and if the owner doesn’t do it, the city does it and bills them.”
Warnell said the Park Avenue home was particularly significant because it was the last original standing structure that hasn’t been modified.
“This is a jewel of a historic house, and it’s in the Black neighborhood,” she said. “It’s part of a big story. I just think it’s criminal for this thing to go down.”
Mayor and city council at its Dec. 13 regular meeting agreed an ordinance needs to be drafted to protect historic homes from demolition by neglect.
“This is an important piece of legislation to consider,” Mayor Ted Becker said. “Our historic district is not very big, but we have a lot of properties in it. You don’t lose a historic district by demolition unless you have a tornado like what swept through Kentucky and Tennessee, but you do lose it one building at a time.”
City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said the city already has property maintenance code that allows the city to repair a property, then put a lien on the property so it recoups its …….