When Andrea Correll stepped up to the podium to address the Swansboro Historic preservation Commission on Oct. 18, commission members applauded.

It was the first official appearance at a town meeting since Correll, in her second stint as the town’s planning director, returned to the post on Friday, Oct. 7.

First hired by Swansboro in March 2016, Correll left the post for a job in Burgaw in October 2019. Her return follows the resignation of Jennifer Holland in September.

Members of the historic preservation commission were obviously happy to see her back and expressed satisfaction with her handling of a rewrite – which she said is far from finished – of a proposed amendment to the town’s Uniform Development Ordinance that would help encourage owners of historic structures to keep them maintained.

Correll has been working on an ordinance amendment that would address “demolition by neglect.” It has been a goal of the historic commission – one fully supported by Mayor John Davis – to put such an ordinance in place.

In fact, Davis used photos from the recent demolition of a historic home at 214 Water St. to urge the town to act on demolition by neglect.

Next-door neighbors Bennie Goodwin and Frank Weaver owned the home at 214 Water St., known as the Edward M. Hill House. The historic commission approved their request to raze the home, built in 1900, on Aug. 17, 2021, but required a demolition delay of 365 days in order to find a way to either save the home onsite or move it. Neither could be arranged and the home was demolished on Oct. 24.

While a photo of that demolition was displayed at the Oct. 24 meeting of the town commissioner, Davis asked that steps be taken to limit the loss of historic structures in the Swansboro Historic District.

While Correll has been working on an ordinance that would address demolition by neglect, she has also tempered expectations on what it might mean if one is put in place.

“In North Carolina we are a Dillon Rule state,” Correll explained in an email. “This principal means that, ‘local government only exercises (1) powers expressly granted by the state, (2) powers necessarily and fairly implied from the grant of power, and (3) powers crucial to the existence of local government.’”

What that means is that while a DBN – or demolition by neglect – rule could be a way to encourage maintenance, it can’t stop someone from choosing to demolish a structure, based on laws of the state.

The proposed text amendments addressing demolition by neglect are going to the Historic Preservation Commission, according to Correll. That took place at the meeting of Tuesday, Nov. 15.

Though there is little that can be done to stop someone determined to demolish a structure, Correll said the DBN ordinance is still worth considering.

“What I find is if we do this demolition by neglect before things start looking tough, things can be resolved,” she told the commission.

Because DBN would be a text amendment of the Unified Development Ordinance, the draft would go from the historic preservation commission to the Swansboro Planning Board before going to a public hearing followed by consideration of the Swansboro Board of Commissioners.

Email Jimmy Williams at jimmy@tidelandnews.com.

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