Local News

Durham begins razing nuisance properties

Posted November 2, 2009 9:53 a.m. EST
Updated November 2, 2009 5:55 p.m. EST

— City crews on Monday began demolishing rental properties east of downtown that have been the subject of a court dispute.

The five buildings on Boone Street don't meet building codes, city officials say, and a court order requiring the owner, Haskell Properties, to upgrade the units expired Aug. 6. Officials say the family that owns Haskell Properties has had years to bring them up to code and has already had repeated extensions.

The family obtained a temporary restraining order two months ago to block a planned demolition, but Rick Hester, Durham's housing codes administrator and assistant director of the city Department of Neighborhood Improvement Services, said the order has expired, clearing the path for the buildings to come down.

"We've tried to work with them, but nothing would happen," Hester said, noting he's had several run-ins with Haskell Properties during the more than 20 years he's worked for the city.

"We do not remember a single property of theirs that was brought into compliance by them making the repairs," he said.

City crews last week demolished two of the company's properties on Angier Avenue, and 16 units have been torn down across Durham in the past few years, officials said.

Tiffany Corbitt, whose father operates Haskell Properties, said Monday that "the fight is not over yet" regarding the Boone Street units. The family filed suit against the city last Friday, contending it had a verbal agreement with officials to allow more time for the properties to be fixed.

Nearby residents have complained the Boone Street houses have been a haven for drug dealers and vagrants, Durham officials said.

The Rev. Melvin Whitley, a neighborhood advocate, said the rental properties have hindered an area trying to change.

"East Durham has cleaned itself up over the years, and today, we've reached another milestone," Whitley said. "This is a beginning. We can start anew."

Crews razed two of the buildings Monday morning and were expected to tear down the other three on Tuesday after some asbestos was removed, officials said.

"This was sort of a monument to what was wrong with Northeast Central Durham," Hester said. "Hopefully, now that we are taking this down, Northeast Central Durham can move on."