Time runs out on Cameo Building
Ten months after a brick retaining wall collapsed on the 125-year- old Cameo Building downtown, causing extensive damage, and after numerous appeals, rulings and pleas, that was the city council’s final verdict in a Monday special session.
New Mayor John King cast his first tie-breaking vote after the council had deadlocked 2-2 on a motion to uphold the Building Standards Commission’s second ruling that the structure be secured within 14 days and demolished within 30.
King said he “didn’t want to see it come down” but said owner Gloria Thrasher had not presented required plans to the city outlining how she planned to brace and renovate the structure, which the commission had ruled a safety concern.
“You haven’t complied with what the Building Standards Commission has asked for,” he said.
Thrasher and Marilyn Cates, whose family owns the adjacent Old Tyme Antiques Building next door to Cameo, had pleaded that the council overturn the commission’s ruling and allow an architect to draw up plans to save and restore the structure.
Richie Thrasher, Mrs. Thrasher’s son, attempted to address the situation but City Attorney Michelle Lehmkuhl said he did not qualify as an “interested party” and could not speak in what was essentially an appeal of a ruling by the Building Standards Commission.
Thrasher said she’s had an architect look at the building. “He’s agreed to draw plans, which he says he could do very easily but we kind of need to know if we’re allowed to go forward,” she said.
Cates said she had concerns about the adjacent building if the Cameo structure comes down.
Thrasher said metal in the Cameo facade “is what’s helping to hold up the walls on either side.”
“If you take it down, I don’t know what happens, especially to the two-story building next door,” she said.
Lehmkuhl maintained Thrasher has had time to address the issue and present plans for restoration to the commission during hearings when it twice ordered the structure demolished.
“Under the (building standards) ordinance, the burden of proof is on the owner,” Lehmkuhl said.
Councilman Doug Calame made a motion to uphold the commission’s decision and order the building demolished.
Council members Colby Fisher and Joyce Dalley said they had concerns over effects on the adjacent buildings if the Cameo structure was razed.
Fisher proposed an alternate scenario, considered but not adopted by the Building Standards Commission, in which Thrasher would be allowed to proceed with renovation plans on a step-by-step approach with deadlines. “If they miss the time frame, it comes down,” he said.
Mayor King asked Calame if he wanted to withdraw or amend his motion (to demolish). Calame declined and the ensuing vote deadlocked 2-2 with Calame and Willie Phillips voting in favor, Fisher and Dalley against.
Council member Melody Dawson was absent and councilman Nathan Bland excused himself from discussion or voting, citing his membership on the Building Standards Commission which made the original decision.
Rockdale mayors only vote in tie situations.