A draft of a rule that is designed to encourage preservation of historic structures in Swansboro is headed to the town commissioners.

“Demolition by neglect” is a term that has been used for the past few years among members of the town’s historic preservation commission.

First raised by Jeff Conaway – at the time a member of the preservation commission and now a town commissioner – he suggested a Demolition by Neglect ordinance as a way to eliminate or at least stall the loss of structures in the Swansboro Historic District.

A draft of such an ordinance, prepared by Andrea Correll, town planner, cleared the preservation commission in November. The only suggested change was that the draft includes some reference to the penalties an owner might face if warnings were ignored.

From there, the draft went to the Swansboro Planning and Zoning Board on Dec. 6.

In a very brief meeting, the draft was applauded and approved and sent to the Swansboro Board of Commissioners for consideration.

Correll told the planning board members that the DBN ordinance is designed to apply to the town’s historic district.

“This is not for the regular environment of the town,” she said.

And, Correll explained, “It is really a legal preamble.

“You can anticipate going to court with DBN and the best thing to have is court proceedings … and the definition of what the purpose is.”

As written, “Demolition by neglect shall mean and include the failure by the owner or such other person who may have legal possession, custody, and control of any building or structure (including walls, fences, light fixtures, steps, pavement, paths, or any other appurtenant features), either designated as an historic landmark or found to have historic significance, to keep the exterior features free of decay, deterioration, and structural defects, in order to ensure that the same shall be preserved. The term “demolition by neglect” shall also include the failure of such owner or other person having such legal possession, custody, and/or control, to repair, upon written request by the Town of Swansboro Historic Preservation Commission on behalf of the Town of Swansboro, such exterior features as are found to be deteriorating, or to correct any condition contributing to deterioration …”

The ordinance goes on to list specific areas of a structure that might be considered.

“So the purpose for us is to preserve the character of Swansboro that we all love,” Correll told the planners

After going through each section of the draft, she explained how the enforcement process would unfold.

“In the compliance and enforcement section, it is the planner’s responsibility for code enforcement,” Correll said.

But, she added, enforcement could involve the preservation commission.

“You have to follow the state statutes,” she said. “I truly believe that this is very necessary for our continued … historic preservation.”

Scott Chadwick, planning board chairman, picked up on the idea that a court challenge seems inevitable.

“It is interesting. You said you go into this almost assuming that you are going to end up in court. And I’m assuming that what we’re trying to accomplish here is that when we go into court we’ve got black and white we’re following. It certainly protects us … it gives us ammunition,” he said.

Correll said that was an accurate summation.

Mike Favata, planning board member, asked Correll if the Swansboro Board of Adjustment would play a role.

“Yes,” she said, the board of adjustments is “the first line of appeal.”

The planning board voted unanimously to recommend approval of the ordinance.

The planning board acts in an advisory capacity to the Swansboro Board of Commissioners. The board of commissions has final say on zoning matters.

A public hearing notice in the Tideland News indicates the board of commissioners will consider the DBN rule following a public hearing at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 9.

Email Jimmy Williams at jimmy@tidelandnews.com.

(1) comment

David Collins

You know someone will challenge this as unfair . Will most likely be changed to apply unilaterally to all structures/properties within the town limits . Certainly will raise a ruckus if that happens . But then there are a few eyesores that need tending to as long as the enforcers don’t go overboard .

Will see if the town leaders have the fortitude to institute this idea .

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