Monday, December 19, 2011

What's Up at 36 Philadelphia Avenue?

The house at 36 Philadelphia Avenue in Takoma Park is abandoned and has deteriorated severely in the last several years.  The City of Takoma Park obtained a first court Order of Abatement on June 27, 2007, requiring the owner to "either repair the condemned and unsafe structure... or apply for a demolition permit."  The owner, John R. Garrison, did neither, preferring to serve two jail stints rather than obey court orders.

The city and the community would like to see the property rebuilt or, if reconstruction is infeasible, demolished.  The road to resolution has been tortuous.

What is current status?  Information below is drawn from conversations with city Housing and Community Development Director Sara Daines and material provided by Assistant City Attorney Linda Perlman --

The city opened 36 Philadelphia for inspection on Friday, December 9. Representatives of three engineering firms were there, also two individuals who have experience restoring historic properties.

The city has asked the engineering firms to bid on production of a structural report.  Their bids are expected later next week.

The house is full of stuff; you can't even get far into it.  After the holidays, the city will see about options for cleaning out the building in order to do a fair assessment.

Both the engineers and the renovators noted that any building can be restored given enough money; however, the sense in this case is that restoration will not be feasible.  If the building and property were donated -- as had been asked in the past, receiving no positive response from the property owner -- it might make financial sense to restore.

The city would need a historic-area work permit to tear the building down. The permit-application process requires the assessment described above.

If the building was torn down, the rubble would be removed including the foundation.  The lot would be graded and seeded.  The cost would be billed to the property owner, who would have 30 days to pay.  If he doesn't pay, the cost would be added to his property tax bill.  If not paid, the property could be put up for tax sale after June 2012.  If purchased, the buyer would have as long as 2 years to act.  Information on tax-lien sales is online at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/apps/taxliensale/ .

The whereabouts of the property owner, John R. Garrison (who had deeded the property to an apparently fictitious entity, "Maryland Mental Health Care"), are unknown.

Further, the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County issued, on November 2, 2011, an order that allows the city to proceed with steps toward demolition and cost recovery.  See http://takotra.org/ABATEMENTORDER_County_demolish36Phil_rev102611.doc A next step would be application for a historic-area work permit and a demolition permit.

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