Going again

Demolition program in business after long series of legal delays

Rockdale’s program of tearing down “unsafe and dilapidated” structures” is back in business. Last Wednesday the city’s revived Building Standards Commission issued its first demolition orders since the commission returned to its full five-member status.

Those orders included the former Cameo Insurance building at 113 East Cameron, which has sat untouched for the past seven months since the wall collapse last summer which caused damages to much of a city block.

That building is viewed as the key to addressing the larger situation. What happens to other buildings depends, in large part, to the Cameo building’s eventual fate.

The commission ruled that the building was substandard— the roof fell in—and gave the owner 14 days to secure the building and 60 to demolish it.

Why did it take so long for official action? A variety of reasons, mostly legal.

Last spring Rockdale, and virtually every other municipality in Texas, put its demolition program on hold after the Texas Supreme Court awarded a Dallas woman $75,000 from that city after ruling Big D didn’t give her due process before tearing down a building she owned.

That got everybody’s attention. At the time, Rockdale had 19 structures in its demolition “pipeline” and 40 on a list. Twenty-seven had been demolished. (The downtown “crash” hadn’t happened yet, of course.)

The legal minds got together and decided what Dallas did wrong was not provide a thorough appeal process. So it was decided Rockdale’s Building Standards Commission would make the initial call, a decision that could be appealed to the city council.

But up until last week, two days before the commission met, in fact, the Cameo building didn’t have a sole, legal owner. With that solved, and the commission returning to full 5-member strength within the past month, official action was possible and that’s what happened last week.

It’s not the end of the problem. But it could be the beginning of the end. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.—M.B.

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