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Town considers options for blighted properties

The Charlotte Court House Town Council is on a mission to address abandoned and blighted properties in the town and has requested suggestions from Town Attorney Gary Elder.

Last month Councilmember Terry Ramsey said the old Charlotte Elementary School and School Administration Building at 200 and 300 David Bruce Avenue beside the County Health Department had become eyesores.

“This is something some town council members have concerns about, and we are looking into appropriate action,” Ramsey said in an email. “These are contributing structures in the Charlotte Court House Historic District and have windows broken out and have been neglected for many years.”

During its Tuesday, April 19 meeting, town council members discussed the issues once again, hearing several options from Elder.

“There appear to be a few different options that we can make regarding how we deal with blighted/distressed properties,” Elder said. “One would be an ordinance. For a variety of reasons, this approach seems onerous and difficult to me. We do not want to have to adopt an ordinance every time we deem a property to be blighted. This would require public hearings, advertising, etc.”

Elder said the second option would involve adopting a uniform building code asking the county to allow its building inspector to inspect buildings located within town limits.

“To me, this is the preferred method to utilize,” Elder said. Regardless of which path we take, the council should realize that this is neither a quick nor easy nor cheap process.”

According to Elder, when a building is condemned, the town will have the option to either make repairs or demolish.

“Either option will result in the town having to spend money,” Elder said, “The costs incurred by the town will act as a lien on the property. If we choose to demolish, there are also the additional costs of petitioning the circuit court for approval.”

The Museum of Charlotte County currently owns the two buildings in question.

Chairperson P.K. Pettus said the organization was taking several initiatives before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“Then we had to pause everything,” Pettus said.

Pettus said in the fall of 2019, the Museum of Charlotte County sponsored a celebration of Charlotte County’s arts, crafts and rural heritage, which was successful in gaining them exposure.

“That successful event gained us goodwill,” Pettus said. “We were saddened we could not build upon it and move forward.”

In February 2020, Pettus contacted Gov. Ralph Northam seeking help in preserving historic buildings and promoting community revitalization.

The structures were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

In 2017 the buildings were placed on Preservation Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places.