Cameo building allowed study

New look okayed at 1880s structure

An 1880s-era downtown building, which was ordered demolished by the city’s Building Standards Commission last month, has gotten at least a temporary reprieve from the city council.

The council voted unanimously Monday to hear additional evidence from a structural engineer on effects of demolishing the Cameo Insurance building on adjacent structures.

Meeting in regular session at City Hall, the council also acted on the city’s proposed nuisance ordinance (see separate story).

Owner Glor ia Thrasher appealed to the council to set aside the commission’s demolition order, saying she had plans to renovate the structure, which was damaged Aug. 29-30, 2012, when a 125-year- old firewall collapsed.

CATCH 22—In a procedural “Catch-22” situation, Thrasher was not allowed to mention her assertion that she had received the green light to proceed with the renovation from a structural engineer she said had inspected the building.

That’s because the inspection occurred after the commission’s March 6 hearing and was not part of the evidence presented at that hearing.

By law, in an appeal the council can only consider evidence presented at the original hearing.

The inspection was referenced in a front-page story in the March 14 Reporter.

Thrasher pointed out she only acquired full ownership of the building two days before the March hearing and is making some progress toward renovation.

“The debris has been cleaned up, she said. “I did hire a structural engineer, although I’m not allowed to present that finding to you.”

She challenged the city’s assertion that the building had been inspected the day after the wall fell. “I don’t think they ever went inside,”she said.

City Attorney Michelle Lehmkuhl said the bui lding was entered but “they didn’t spend much time in there because of safety concerns.”

HOLE—Thrasher noted the Cameo building has shared walls and that its demolition would affect five adjacent structures.

“If it’s torn down those other buildings will be in jeopardy,” she said. “Water that’s not coming in now will get in.”

Council member Joyce Dalley said she had visited the Elgin City Council, which is facing a similar situation.

“If a hole opens up in your downtown I was told it will be about 50 to 60 years before another building is built to fill that hole.

“I’d like to see a plan for stabilizing the structure and preserving the facade,” she said.

Vandalism concerns were also mentioned in the event a “hole” opens up between buildings.

“I don’t think we have enough information to make a decision yet,” council member Toby Johnson said. She suggested a structural engineer be employed to look at the building and determine the effects of demolition on the adjacent structures.

On a unanimous vote, the council, at least for now, set aside the demolition order pending information acquired from the new inspection.

Depending on the results, the matter could go back before the Building Standards Commission.

APPEAL—Another appeal of a commission demolition order had a different outcome.

Attorney Kirby King appeared on behalf of Winston and Delores Woolverton, owners of a structure at 1304 East Cameron (US 79), which had been ordered demolished within 30 days.

King said the city first granted the Woolvertons a building permit to repair the roof then, through the commission, ordered the structure town down.

Lehmkuhl said if obtaining a building permit was allowed to stop the demolition process, “a lot of people would be running up to get a permit, then do nothing.”

The council upheld the demolition order, but extended the time limit from 30 to 60 days.

Vote was 4-2 with Dalley, Doug Calame, Melody Dawson and Willie Phillips voting in favor. Johnson and Colby Fisher voted against.

In other business the council:

• Authorized City Manager Kelvin Knauf to negotiate a contract with Orasi Development for advertising and promotion of the tourism and lodging industry in Rockdale.

• Okayed a bid contract for work on water well number 11 at Coffield Regional Airport.

• Accepted a “clean” audit report for 2011-12.

• Decided to create a permanent tourism committee, to be appointed at a later date.

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