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Hillsborough may seize control of historic inn

Posted October 10, 2015

What was once the longest-running hotel in North Carolina might be revived if its owners can decide how to save the Hillsborough landmark.
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— Town commissioners are weighing a possible eminent domain action to take control of a Hillsborough landmark.

The Colonial Inn, which historians say was built in 1838 – a weathered sign that hangs from the West King Street building says 1759 – survived the Civil War and entertained guests as notable as the late actor Paul Newman for generations. But it has been closed for more than a decade and is now a rundown eyesore, with rotting wood, peeling paint and a weed-choked sidewalk.

Chapel Hill businessman Francis Henry, who bought the inn at auction in 2002, tried to raze the inn last year, but Hillsborough officials rejected his request for a demolition permit.

After months of trying to work with the owners to find ways to make needed improvements to the inn, town officials will discuss condemning the building via eminent domain at a Monday meeting, Commissioner Eric Hallman said.

Hillsborough Fire Marshal Jerry Wagner has in recent weeks had to secure the building and turn off power to the property out of safety concerns, Hallman said.

In a Sept. 14 letter to Henry, Wagner said the collapsed roof, foundation and holes in walls and ceilings needed to be repaired or brought up to code.

8 Comments

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  • William Teach Oct 11, 2015
    user avatar

    This article is rather lacking in details. What does the town of Hillsborough plan to do with the property if seized? NC passed a rather weak law post-Kelo which sorta forbids using eminent domain to seize property for "economic development". Will they declare that it is urban blight? Then what?

    As has already been pointed out, they will have to use taxpayer money to seize it. Then use taxpayer money to restore and run it. For what? Other than the building being somewhat old, what's historic about it? Sometimes we need to let things go.

  • Mark Hubbard Oct 10, 2015
    user avatar

    Eminent domain means it gets appraised, that appraised amount deposited with a court, and then the property taken and paid for via a condemnation proceeding. It's not free seizure at all. And the Town has offered to buy it in the past, and the owner won't sell. Why aren't conservatives screaming about their "heritage" now? I'm sure a confederate flag flew over it at some point...wooden commercial antebellum buildings are extremely rare, and this building should be preserved.

  • Robert Huey Oct 10, 2015
    user avatar

    I may be wrong but I don't think eminent domain means free. I think they still have to pay fair market value for the property. Eminent domain forces the sale at market value to go through.

  • John Kramer Oct 10, 2015
    user avatar

    Hillsborough government is becoming Chapel Hill North. Do as we say-or we will take your property away. Of course claiming right of eminent domain is so far from applicable - it makes the whole thing laughable. Amateurs in government.

    The owner couldn't even get a permit to demolish it, now they are griping that it is run down. That really says it all, folks.

    If so many people in town love it then they should buy it from the guy who wants to demolish and spend the bucks to restore it to its original glory.

    So much for individual rights. Welcome to the people's republic of Hillsborough,

  • David Eudy Oct 10, 2015
    user avatar

    Eminent domain is unwarranted in this case. I am disappointed that they decided to choose this this route as a means of dealing with this situation as they have many other options available to them under NC statues and law. I believe eminent domain in this case to be totally unconstitutional and unnecessary. Shame on them.

  • Steven Cousler Oct 10, 2015
    user avatar

    Nothing lasts forever, it's not a shame to raze a dilapidated bldg when no one wants to pony up the cash to restore it. Sounds like the property owner is the one getting the shaft though with the town wanting to condemn and therefore get the property for free while not letting the owner demo it on his own. A clear misuse of eminent domain. If the town wants to restore the inn - then buy it from the owner for a fair price, not risk a lawsuit which could end up costing the town more than what the property is worth.

    But whoever said people in local government were all that smart or fair?

  • Michael Lashley Oct 10, 2015
    user avatar

    I lived in Hillsborough until 1999 and back then this building was so beautiful! At that time it was pretty much a town landmark....so sad to see it now, Hope something can be done to return it back to how it once was.

  • Forest Hazel Oct 10, 2015
    user avatar

    First, let me say that I would be very happy to see the old inn preserved. I ate there once years ago when it was still operating. and believe it could be a wonderful draw to downtown Hillsborough. The story is a little unclear about what Hillsborough plans to do with the building if the condemn it "via eminent domain". Are they going to tear it down themselves? Restore it? Is it still salvageable at this point? How do they justify forcing a private individual to give up his property just so the town can make money off of it? What town properties are they going to deem historic enough to seize next? I think seizing it sets kind of a shaky precedent in this particular case, even though I don't like the idea of it being razed.