Florida Keys News
Saturday, May 24, 2014
'Unfit for human habitation'
City nominates 5 crumbling homes for 'demolition'

Five crumbling houses in Old Town have fallen into such neglect that they may require demolition, the city's top building official says.

Age and abandonment have taken a dangerous toll on these properties, prompting the demolition discussion to be placed on the 6 p.m. Tuesday agenda of the Historic Architectural Review Commission.

HARC meets at Old City Hall. No votes will come Tuesday.

The houses are located at:

• 1019 Elgin Lane, built in 1920, owned by David Blain of Laguna Beach, Calif.

• 904 Emma St., built in 1933, owned by the Housing Authority of Key West.

• 914 Emma St., built in 1923, owned by the estate of Martha J. Wilkerson, in care of Karen Allen-Valdez of Jonesboro, Ga.

• 719 Whitehead St., built in 1892, owned by Margaret Carey of Greenville, Miss.

• 221 Petronia St., built in 1889, owned by James Matthew Chapman of Key West.

"Several have openings in the roof and walls allowing precipitation to enter and accelerate the disintegration process," wrote Ron Wampler, chief building official, in a letter this month to HARC.

Efforts to reach the homeowners, including the housing authority's director, were unsuccessful this week. But city staff members are familiar with the addresses.

The Petronia Street home's second floor is scarred from a fire, Wampler said.

"These structures have been posted 'unsafe,'" he wrote.

In Key West's historic district, where all of the homes stand, demolition is a process that begins with notification that the building in question has the "possibility" of facing a teardown, local law states.

Regulations also say in some situations the city can work with an owner to plan repairs and consider "economic hardship."

Wampler's notice to HARC and Enid Torrgrosa, the city's historic preservation planner, is a first step in the demolition process.

The city has also notified by letters the Historic Florida Keys Foundation and Old Island Restoration Foundation, both nonprofits.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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