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Council: Druid Hills pool a public nuisance
Demolition still a possibility
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Martinsville officials are looking at options for the abandoned Druid Hills Pool, but demolition remains a potential outcome.
In a unanimous vote, Martinsville City Council on Tuesday adopted on first reading an ordinance declaring the pool and structures at 125 Askin St. and 122 Summit St. to be public nuisances so they can be torn down if needed.
A final adoption, which would make the ordinance official, will be considered during the next regular council meeting Sept. 25. If the ordinance is finalized then, the city is to demolish the structures after 30 days if their owners do not refurbish or raze them.
The city would pay the demolition costs if the owners are unwilling or cannot afford to act.
Officials have said the swimming pool closed about five years ago.
City tax records show the pool property is owned by Forest Hills Recreation Enterprises Inc. of Martinsville. But that entity ceased to exist five years ago, according to State Corporation Commission records.
According to a council report, there have been constant problems with soil erosion, standing water and mosquitoes on the property. When they visited the property on Monday, council members discovered a sink hole — about 4 feet wide, 4 feet long and 5 feet deep — in a culvert at the location.
The pool is a hazard because children or animals could fall in and get hurt, according to Interim City Manager Leon Towarnicki.
During a neighborhood council meeting at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church on Monday, the idea of trying to reactivate the corporation that owned the pool so ownership could be transferred to the city was discussed.
However, City Attorney Eric Monday said Tuesday he found out that legally “it is not possible to resurrect” the corporation because “it simply has not existed for too long.
“There is nobody with any legal standing” to reactivate it, Monday said. He said the city would have to petition a court to dissolve the corporation and appoint a receiver.
In that instance, the court probably would give the pool to the city, but then again it might not, Monday told the council.
It is “a cleaner process” to declare the pool a nuisance because the city can “seize the lot for a demolition lien,” he said.
City Fire Marshal/Building Official Ted Anderson gave the council several options for handling the pool.
The cheapest option, which he said would cost about $6,000, would be to fill the pool with bricks, concrete and other demolition debris from the site, along with fill dirt, to make a “very presentable lot” — even if it is covered with natural vegetation — that eventually could be built upon or sold.
Hauling away demolition debris would cost about $17,000, he estimated, noting that the tax value of the property is only about $24,000.
Among other options, making the pool usable again — such as if it was to become a public facility — initially would cost roughly $150,000, Anderson said, noting there would be major expenses such as installing a new pump system. Then there would be annual operating costs, such as for lifeguards and chemicals to keep the water clean, he said.
“I want to see this (property) back on the tax rolls,” said Councilman Gene Teague. He asked if the city could sell the property without spending any money on it.
Monday said the city could offer it for public sale “in its current state” due to a tax delinquency.
Mayor Kim Adkins said the options will be considered at a later date.
The Askin Street property was condemned because it is structurally unsound and cannot be repaired, according to the council report. Parts of the structure are open to the elements and unsecured, and people may have stayed there despite its condition, the report shows.
The owner of the Askin Street structure plans to work with a contractor to see if he can afford to upgrade it, Monday said.
If they come up with a plan to upgrade it and the building official OKs it, the property could be removed from the nuisance ordinance, added Monday.
The Summit Street property also was condemned, having been extensively damaged by fire, and it is open, unsecured and hazardous, the report states.
Those properties’ owners were not identified.
Monday said the Summit Street site is owned by 10 heirs and most want to “deed it over” to a single heir, but they lack money to upgrade the structure.