Demolition request withdrawn before Martinsburg Council

September 20, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - When property owners appear before Martinsburg City Council because their property may be demolished, many plead with council members, and promise to make any necessary repairs.

Thursday night, one man did the exact opposite: He asked the council to demolish an old home.

Pastor Earl Hairston, with Petra Worship Center, owns the brick home in question, which is at 703 W. Burke St., next to the worship center. Its windows are boarded up, and a "No Trespassing" sign hangs on the front door. People are selling drugs behind the home, Hairston said.

"We'd love to see it torn down," Hairston said. He said the church cannot pay to have it demolished.

Darby Dean, a city building inspector, said the house meets demolition criteria - it has no plumbing or electric and is gutted inside.


Council was on the cusp of voting on the demolition request when problems arose.

Councilman Glenville Twigg first said he was concerned that the city was going to tear down the structure "as a favor" to the church. That could set a precedent, he said. "What we do for one, we have to do for all," he said.

City Manager Mark Baldwin said the city should proceed with the demolition, since Hairston cannot make repairs to the structure, with an understanding that no favors were being done.

The council prepared to vote on the demolition request until Twigg repeatedly asked Hairston if he understood that the city would place a lien on his properties if they tore down the house.

Hairston repeatedly said he understood.

When Twigg asked him again, Hairston said, "Mr. Twigg, why are you being so hostile?"

"We are not in the business of tearing down properties for anybody," Twigg replied.

Hairston then said to forget his request, that if he were given until next spring, he would find a way to tear down the building himself. "I'd rather do that than go through all this," he said.

The council then withdrew its motion to demolish, and instead voted unanimously to give Hairston until June 30 to remove the home.

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