Albemarle issues special use permit, vacate orders

Published 10:31 am Wednesday, September 27, 2023

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Following public hearings on Sept. 18, Albemarle City Council granted a special use permit for 1035 Pee Dee Ave., as well as vacate and close orders for structures at 115 Harwood St. and 903 Efird St.

Carla Cunningham had requested the special use for the purpose of using the Pee Dee Avenue residence as a vacation rental home.

“It is in the city’s historic district,” she said in addressing the Council, “and my daughter will help me in operating it.”

“This will provide another option besides a hotel or motel for people who are coming to the area,” Cunningham added.

The request was approved unanimously.
Code Enforcement Officer Greg Morris presented a chronology of violations at 115 Harwood St. dating back to March 2022, when a sewage leak was reported which led to an inspection of the property.

In addition to the timeline of monthly inspections, Morris displayed photos of exposed wiring, flex cords, padlocked doors and construction debris at the building.

“The house has been used as a boarding house, and at one point (March 2022) had 10 persons living in the house and in a camper on the property,” Morris reported.

Morris’ report for August 2023 noted that after repeated fines and inspections, “Enforcement feels the property owner has no intention of ceasing use as a boarding house and making repairs to deem the dwelling compliant with minimum housing requirements. As a result, a Vacate & Close Order will be drafted and a request to City Council for the property to be closed until zoning and minimum housing violations are corrected will be requested.”

Property owner Richard Huneycutt said he is, “doing work for the North Carolina Parole Board,” and that he intended to “try to fix the problems immediately.”

Councilman Bill Aldridge asked Huneycutt to explain the delay in making repairs to the facility, to which Huneycutt replied that his “truck had broken down.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Sue Hall and Councilman Dexter Townsend both quizzed Huneycutt as to his role with the NC Parole Board.

“I allow them (parolees) short-term housing,” he replied.
Bruce Hedrick, a resident of 115 Harwood, disputed Morris’ reports of conditions, stating that a number of conditions had been recently corrected, stating, “the interior (of the building) is as nice as this in here (referring to City Hall).”

“It has been a boarding house as long as I’ve been in Albemarle, and I don’t see it as a hazard to the public,” said Hedrick.

Morris next reported on conditions at 903 Efird St., which is also owned by Huneycutt.

“On May 21, 2023, the city received information that this property had several people living there but no utilities connected to the property. Code Enforcement then began an investigation on the property, and confirmed that no active utility account for the property existed. Additional observations showed the property had several fire hazards, debris scattered throughout and what appeared to be a camper with people living in it on the property.”

Morris further reported that a hearing for minimum housing code violations at the property was held on June 8, but neither Huneycutt nor any of the residents appeared.

In addition, Albemarle Police Department reported being dispatched more than 40 times to the location during July and August for calls ranging from assaults, rapes, fights, drug use, theft, medical emergencies and animal control issues.

Two citizens expressed concerns over the property and its tenants to Council, each relating similar experiences.

Alicia Wright and Penny Kaylor both reported having been verbally abused on a number of occasions by some of the tenants of 903 Efird, and also having observed animal abuse (tenants beating a dog, and one dog on the property who starved to death).

Following closure of the public hearing, council members voted unanimously to issue Vacate and Close orders at both locations.

“The properties will need to be vacated by Oct. 1,” said Morris.

In other business, council members:

• Heard a report from Adam Kiker of LKC Engineering on submittal of utility funding applications;

• Adopted a number of resolutions related to water line funding and water treatment plant sludge dewatering;

• Approved road closures for the Albemarle Christmas Parade and Downtown Christmas Open House;

• Approved budget amendments related to the city manager search process;

• Discussed concerns with lighting during the Sept. 8 Food Truck Friday event at City Lake Park.

The next regular meeting is scheduled for Oct. 2.

Toby Thorpe is a freelance writer for The Stanly News & Press.