0

Woman loses appeal of house demolition

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Covington First United Methodist Church plans to demolish this home on Monticello Street and put in a gravel parking lot. A nearby resident lost her appeal Monday to the City Council to stop the demolition.

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Covington First United Methodist Church plans to demolish this home on Monticello Street and put in a gravel parking lot. A nearby resident lost her appeal Monday to the City Council to stop the demolition.

COVINGTON -- The Covington City Council agreed Monday night to uphold a decision by the Historic Preservation Commission to allow demolition of a historic house on Monticello Street, but not before a neighbor pleaded for the structure to be saved.

The house, located at 2129 Monticello St., is owned by Covington First United Methodist Church and sits between the church parking lot and the property that was previously The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, but is now also owned by the Methodist Church.

The church purchased the house in 1999, prior to the designation of Monticello Street as a historic district. Pastor Douglas Gilreath said it was purchased with the intent that it would one day be demolished for additional parking.

According to the minutes of the Historic Preservation Commission's Oct. 6 meeting, Ed Hutter of Hutter and Associates, speaking on behalf of the church, stated the house has fallen into disrepair and it would be too costly for the church to bring it up to current building codes. Hutter estimated repairs could run about $250,000, while the tax assessor's appraised value of the house is about $75,000. The church rented the property for a time and it has been vacant for about two years, according to Hutter.

The church plans to demolish the home and install a gravel lot to provide easier access to the church annex, the old Episcopal Church property. The church will expand its facilities in three to five years and at that time the lot will be paved. Gilreath said the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church will not allow the buildout without adequate parking.

The Historic Preservation Commission voted 3-2 to allow the demolition.

But Monticello Street resident Sharon Allen Lord decided to appeal the decision.

"I'm confident that preserving a house on this street and bringing it back to a viable status is a better option than replacing it with a gravel parking lot. I care both about preservation and my property values," she said in a letter to the commission and council.

As a property in the historic district, the house should have never been allowed to fall into such disrepair, Lord said. She suggested contacting Habitat for Humanity or another nonprofit group to restore the house.

"I have nothing against the church, but I do have something against taking a home that's been covered (under the historic district ) for 10 years," she said.

Lord also warned that the council could be setting a precedent by allowing the demolition of a property in the historic district.

Senior Planner Scott Gaither said the city's historic preservation ordinance allows for demolition of property, if it meets certain criteria, which in this case were met.

The house, built in 1937, is not the last of its kind in Covington, with numerous structures having a similar character and design and of the same time period, he said.

"The significance of losing this house is not great to this district or to Covington as a whole," Gaither said.

"If it was another organization besides that particular church, do you think (the demolition) would be approved?" Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams asked.

"Yes, we don't look at who owns it," Gaither said.

The vote to uphold the Historic Preservation Commission's decision to allow the demolition was 3-1, with Williams opposed. Councilman Chris Smith recused himself because he is a member and serves on several boards at the church. Councilwoman Ocie Franklin was absent.