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Residents, business owners hear maintenance code details

Albemarle residents and business owners gathered at City Hall Tuesday night to learn about a proposed commercial maintenance code.

Albemarle Planning and Development Services Director Kevin Robinson said the city has been working on creating a code for several years.

Calling his recommendation a first draft, Robinson tried to prioritize what would be considered a nuisance versus what would be structurally compromised, as well as what would be an aesthetic issue versus a hazardous one.

After consulting with the UNC School of Government and local cities about their ordinances, Robinson drafted a tiered, color-coded framework regarding the condition of buildings.

Green is for buildings that are vacant, but in good condition and in no need of repair. Robinson said the city needs to make sure they stay in good shape and do not get neglected.

If buildings are vacated for long periods of time, they can pose a risk of accidental fire or flooding, declining property values or criminal activity, according to Tyler Mulligan with the UNC School of Government.

Yellow is for vacant buildings that show signs of minor disrepair. There are basic nuisance and aesthetic issues, such as a cracked window or chipped paint, that are not considered urgent to structural integrity or a safety threat, but should eventually be addressed.

Red is for buildings that are dangerous but can still be repaired. Robinson said hopefully property owners can fix the repairs before the buildings get worse.

It includes buildings with any dilapidation, decay or unsanitary conditions, including walls which lean or buckle to an extent which render the building unsafe, leaking roofs and lack of proper electrical, heating or plumbing facilities.

Blue/black is for buildings in need of demolition, removal or urgent care. Robinson said the city can’t condemn a building until a code enforcement officer has decided if it is more than 50 percent deteriorated. Once it meets that threshold, the city council could approve an ordinance for the building to be demolished.

While many buildings could be classified as being in the yellow or red categories, Robinson said the city would need to prioritize addressing the most dilapidated and structurally compromised buildings first.

Robinson said though his staff does not have the resources to implement the proposed code, “this gives the city the tools to do so once it does have the resources.”

The public debated numerous issues during the input session, including the tension many commercial business owners say they feel in regard to how the city treats them and how the proposed code would be enforced.

Community members agreed the buildings in downtown Albemarle should be addressed first, especially the ones in the worst structural shape. The need for more collaboration between the tenants, the property owners and the city was also stressed.

Bryan Maples, who works in real estate in Albemarle, believes downtown should have its own maintenance code separate from the rest of the city.

“I think the focus should be on downtown which predominantly creates a crowd that desires and would appreciate more regulation to improve buildings and conditions — both structurally and aesthetically,” he wrote on Facebook.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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