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Published Sat, Nov 10, 2012 08:00 PM
Modified Sat, Nov 10, 2012 09:41 AM

The wait continues to decide future of old Red & White

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- ajames@newsobserver.com

CLAYTON -- In an effort to avoid demolishing a dilapidated historic building on Front Street, the Town Council decided Monday to allow time for foreclosure proceedings to take place.

An attorney who represents the lienholder on the property asked the council on Monday for time to go through a foreclosure process. According to attorney Jeff Cook, the owner, Robert Bryant, has not been making his payments and he has allowed the building to fall into disrepair.

The council agreed to delay plans to demolish the building for two weeks until the foreclosure hearing takes place.

The store, at 110 W. Front Street, has been vacant about 10 years. Its fallen state has become a symbol of the owner’s personal struggle as he battles health problems that have kept him from maintaining the building.The town condemned the property after inspectors found problems with the roof, the awning over the front door and the heating and air conditioning systems in the building.

Though the town has worked with Bryant for two years to repair the building, nothing has changed. It is still an eyesore and a potential fire hazard. In August, the council planned to demolish it. The plans were halted however, when the council received a letter from both Bryant and his doctor requesting time for Bryant to recover from surgery so he could represent himself at a council meeting and fight to save the building.

The council voted 3-1 to give Bryant 90 days to recover from surgery and attend a council meeting before moving forward with plans to demolish the building.

Council hopes to save building

“We’d like to see the building renovated,” said town manager Steve Biggs. He acknowledged that the council’s delays are because they have taken sympathy on Bryant and his health concerns.

Bryant again wrote a letter to the council prior to Monday’s meeting which he was unable to attend. According to the letter, Bryant’s ailing health has continued to prevent him from being able to fix up the building.

“I had hoped to be able to improve the situation we face concerning the old Red and White grocery building, as my health improved,” Bryant wrote in the letter. “Sadly I can not.”

Despite the sympathy the council has for Bryant, the process of repairing or demolishing the building must move forward because the building is in an unsafe condition. “If someone gets injured as a result of us allowing the building to sit without attention, it’s a shortcoming on our part,” said Biggs.

According to Biggs, a potential buyer had expressed interest in buying and restoring the building. He met with town representatives and said he wanted to turn the building into a butcher shop.

“We’d love to see what he has described come to reality,” said Biggs. But, as of now, no one has bought the property or moved forward with the idea. So the matter at hand is still how to come up with a way to address the potential fire hazard of the building since it is in Bryant’s possession.

Bryant continues his letter by explaining his own regret over the state of the building.

“I feel nothing less than disgraced by this turn of events and offer my apologies to the town of Clayton.” He said he had hoped to meet with Katie Smith, the original owner of the building, once his health improved, but he has not been able to meet with her. “I would have liked to encourage her to donate the property to the town of Clayton.”

He says he can not approach her now because she has initiated legal proceedings against him by putting a lien on the property.

“I still believe that making this contribution will be the most productive of all possibilities, and will ask that she consider the proposal,” Bryant said. “The town could honor her name with its use of the property.”

Biggs said that the town will wait to find out the outcome of the foreclosure proceedings. If the property is foreclosed upon, and someone buys the property, he said the town would work with the new owner to make sure the building is renovated. If there is not a new owner who wants to renovate the building, the town will move forward with the demolition.

James: 919-553-7234

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