Awning flap pits landlordagainst the town council

Last updated: August 12. 2014 4:23PM - 394 Views
By - erinsmith@civitasmedia.com

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ELIZABETHTOWN — There is a kerfuffle brewing between the owners of one business and the town over an awning.
The board met in a regularly scheduled council meeting earlier this month, and opted to give the one remaining building owner a chance to bring his awning into compliance.
The building, which houses Bladen Hardware, is owned by Eugene Anderson and John P. Melvin, according to Bladen County tax records — and the owners are puzzled over the issue.
“I would like for someone to tell me what is wrong with the awning,” Melvin said this week when he stopped by the Bladen Journal office. “They have never said what was wrong with the awning. If it has been there for 50 years, why is something wrong with it now?”
According to Melvin, the awning in question was permitted by the town in 1964.
“It was good for 47 years before 2011, why is it not good for 50 years?” said Melvin. He added that the town owns the awning, as it is on their property. He said that his property stops at the brick on the building's front.
Melvin pointed out an awning was added to Melvin's Hamburgers in 1974 and nothing was said about that awning.
In May 2011, the town updated its zoning ordinance and municipal codes as it pertains to awnings and sidewalks. The changes state that an awning must not be less than 8 feet above the sidewalk and not extend out from the building more than 6 feet into the town's right-of-way. Violations can result in a $50 fine and “can lead to abatement by the town,” according to the ordinance.
“It's the size,” said Town Manager Eddie Madden, regarding the awning.
Madden said that, since the ordinance changes were approved in 2011, three separate notices have been sent out to property owners along with one copy of the town's facade grant application.
“We notified property owners in 2012 and included an application in 2012,” said Madden.
Melvin claims not to have received a letter from the town notifying him of the compliance issue. According to a letter dated April 9, 2012, owners were notified of the compliance issue specifying the code changes and including a copy of the town's facade grant application to help defray the costs. Melvin's name and a business address appear as one of the addressees on the letter.
Another letter dated Oct. 7, 2013, was also sent which lists Jan. 6, 2014, as the deadline the properties in question need to brought into compliance before enforcement proceedings will begin. At that time, the letter shows four properties were not in compliance and names Melvin as a recipient though it does not list the address to which the letter was sent.
Madden said the facade grant program has been offered by the town each year to help business owners to defray the costs of making the awnings compliant.
Initially, there were six properties that did not meet the new ordinances. Now, said Madden, there is only the one. He stressed that the town council has been trying to work with the owners to come into compliance.
“We're trying to cooperate. We are trying to be fair and ensure there is enough time (for the owners to comply). We have to enforce the code uniformly,” said Madden. “Pat DeVane, on behalf of the town, was asked to speak with the property owner and those two visits have taken place.”
Melvin was asked if he would appear before the town council to ask for clarification on the matter, but he stated he would not.

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