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Charles Town council wants house razing reconsidered

February 20, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Charles Town City councilwoman suggested Tuesday night that council members urge Charles Town Baptist Church members to consider alternatives to tearing down a house they own along Congress Street.

Ann Paonessa proposed during a regular council meeting that council members make the suggestion even though the council is powerless in stopping the move.

Council member Michael Slover said earlier in the week that he was troubled by the church's plans to raze the house and hopes church officials can be convinced to sell the home instead.

Slover told council members Tuesday night that he is scheduled to meet with a church official today at 9:30 a.m. for a tour of the inside of the home at the intersection of Congress and Mildred streets.

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The Rev. Wyman E. Hall, pastor of the church next door to the house, said previously that church members have decided to tear down the home after dealing with deterioration, including a front porch that is rotting, windows that are in bad shape and poor condition of floors inside.

Hall said the church cannot afford needed repairs, which church officials have been told would cost about $140,000.

Some city residents have been upset about the plans to tear down the two-story wood-frame house, saying the home is unique and is in one of the town's most attractive historical settings.

Charles Town resident Charity Beth Long said earlier this week that a petition has been circulating through town regarding the razing. The petition, which urges church officials to consider alternatives to demolition, will be presented to the church and contains at least 50 names, Long said.

Slover said the council has no control over a permit to allow the house to be razed.

Hall said previously that the church must obtain a permit from the city to tear down the house. Proper removal of asbestos that has been found in the house must be conducted before a razing permit can be granted to the church, Hall said.

Mark Reinhart, a member of the city's Historic Landmarks Commission, told council members Tuesday night that he believes it is important to protect all historic resources in town. But those efforts must be balanced with the rights of property owners, he said.

Council member Donald Clendening said property rights must be the "premier" issue in such discussions.

At least two citizens expressed concern at the meeting about how tearing down homes can affect the town.

"It's a fantastic house," said Richard Schaffer, who lives on South Mildred Street.

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