ROSEBORO — Town council members took aim at an abandoned eyesore in downtown Roseboro at a recent meeting, citing looming safety concerns and the fact that no progress has been made toward a remedy.
The property is located at 200/202 W. Roseboro St. and the town has had to block off the sidewalk for concerns over debris falling onto the sidewalk onto pedestrians as the façade is coming away and there is at least a partial roof collapse.
The blighted building, located in the same block as the Beatitude House Thrift Store, has been empty and neglected for quite some time, and is mired it a multitude of unpaid taxes.
The owner, Dr. Eddie Powell, previously ran a medical practice in a house turned medical office located behind the Roseboro Street property. That house has not been occupied for some time, and is owned by another company. One other small parcel of that block was Powell’s as well, and is owned and occupied by someone else.
“The roof has collapsed,” said Mayor Alice Butler. “The county had condemned it.”
“The owner did go and pay the taxes,” she added.
Town Attorney Sandy Sanderson interjected that the county had started the foreclosure process due to substantial back taxes, which are habitually paid off by Powell just before the foreclosure process is due to start. That happened back in 2015 as well.
Additionally there are substantial liens on the property for unpaid taxes by the IRS.
“Again I have asked Mr. Sanderson to give us our options, because it looks really bad there,” said Butler. “Something needs to be done.”
Sanderson said that he didn’t realize that it had already been condemned, and he said that in the town’s ordinance there is a process they can go through.
“We start by the inspector, once he has condemned it, and if the landowner doesn’t correct it, he sends them basically a notice of what he needs to do correct it.”
From there, it would go in front of the town’s hearing officer, Roland Hall, and he would either order him to do it or not.
“If he ordered him to do corrective action, and it was not done in the time period, then the town pays to have it torn down, and then that is yet another lien against that property.”
According to Sanderson, Powell has said that he does not own some of those properties.
“You have two options,” he said. “There’s a revolving loan that is on that property which is in default, which you could proceed against to foreclose.”
Sanderson said that there are a few issues with that, including the priority of the liens already on the property. Essentially that means it’s a list of who goes first to get their money when past due bills are collected. That revolving loan is at the bottom of the list.
“There’s taxes owed to the town and IRS liens against that property,” the attorney noted. Both of those take precedence.
The second option would be for the town to do its own tax foreclosure, and if they go that route their priority would be number one.
“We basically would share number one slot with the county,” said Sanderson. “And since the county has been paid in full recently, we are the only one in the number one slot.”
The problem with that is that the town would be trying to sell something that is in a condemned status. At that point the buyer would have to either bring it to code or have it torn down.
“The county brought foreclosure on 10 different tracts at the same time,” said Sanderson. “Some of those are pretty valuable in Dr. Powell’s mind, which is why he keeps paying to bring them out of the foreclosure.”
Powell owns a lot on Bullard Street, cropland down Butler Island Road, and at least six tax-identified parcels in that one-block radius of downtown.
“If we are bringing against that, and he claims that he doesn’t own it even though he does. So there would be no incentive for him to bring that one out and pay to stop the process,” Sanderson stated. “The question would then be, ‘do we bring it against all of his property that has gotten behind?’”
Sanderson said that Powell recently agreed to pay $500 a month on the ones that “thinks that he owns.” Sanderson said that he is reluctant to go against someone who is making payments on a payment schedule.
“But I think if you are going the tax foreclosure route,you probably need to do it all or nothing — against all of them that are owed.”
The attorney said that seems to be what has prompted the county to get paid because some of those pieces are valuable to him. The additional caveat would be that it is going to cost the town a substantial amount of money, and not necessarily bring in much value to the town.
“We have it blocked off, because it does seem to be unsafe for anyone to walk on the sidewalk with the way the roof has collapsed,” said Butler.
Sanderson did clarify that even though there are three lots there, as Butler commented, that the town has the option to sell them individually if that would garner more money or benefit.
“For safety concerns, something needs to be done as soon as possible,” said Commissioner Mark Gupton. “It is a safety issue.”
Sanderson said that they will need to get the county inspector involved and get him to write the letter stating what needs to be done, and the board voted to get that moving forward.
Powell’s business has since moved across the street, next to a building that the town owns.
The town has been discussing that building, located at 106 N. West St., razed.
”We have bids for getting the building torn down,” said Butler.
The mayor noted that those bids come in at around $21,000, replying to an inquiry by Commissioner Ray Clark Fisher.
“So I guess we are kind of at the roads of where do we want to go with fixing it up or do we go ahead and plan on demolishing the building, getting it torn down,” she said.
“It’s just hard for me to believe that it would cost $700,000 to fix those buildings,” said Fisher.
“That was just a round-about figure,” Butler responded, “as far as if you were making it into a public piece of property.”
“That’s a lot of money,” said Commissioner Richard Barefoot.
Fisher said that they needed to think about it before they tore it down, because there’s no going back.
“That’s right,” said Butler. “It’s a lot to digest.”
“And it’s probably the best thing, but …,” said Fisher, who said he would like to think about it 30 more days.
Barefoot askedwhether that price was correct, and Butler confirmed it was approximate, stipulating the total factored in the town reusing the brick material.
Reach Emily M. Williams at 910-590-9488. Follow her on Twitter at @NCNewsWriter. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.