The grand, 100-year-old house on Prescott Avenue in the city of Manassas has been condemned. The porch is falling apart, so much so that a city official said it was the city’s “ethical responsibility” to demolish it. The chimney is about to fall down and water is seeping through attic windows.
If this house weren’t a grand structure that has greeted residents coming into Old Town Manassas for more than a century, the decision about whether Manassas City Council should demolish or spend taxpayer dollars to save it — if only for the time being — would likely be an easy one.
Instead, 9300 Prescott Ave. has vexed City Council and the court system for the better part of two decades. It continued to do so Monday night.
City Council members tied 3-3 in a bid lead by Council members Mark Wolfe (R) and Marc Aveni (R) to give the property owners 30 days to save the porch and 90 days to make repairs on the house itself. Without clear sign of “substantial” work, Wolfe said, the city should demolish a property that was once a city prize but has since been neglected to the point where officials say it could soon be a safety hazard.Councilwoman Sheryl Bass also voted for that option.
Council members Andrew Harrover (R), Jonathan Way (R) and J. Steven Randolph (I) voted against giving the owners more time and would have liked to spend $88,000 to make repairs and stabilize the house.
The wide, distinctive porch, however, is beyond repair and should be demolished, officials say.
The tie means the deciding vote will go to Mayor Harry “Hal” Parrish II (R), who is all too familiar with the issue. Parrish said he would take the next two weeks to make a decision.
In 2007, then on City Council, Parrish voted to make $94,000 worth of repairs to the house. Two weeks later, he reversed his vote. He has said he changed his mind because he had become unconvinced about whether the city could recoup the dollars it had allocated.
“I would call on the owners to fix it or consider putting it up for sale,” Parrish said, according to a 2007 Washington Post article. Parrish’s vote put the City Council in a 3-3 tie and then-Mayor Douglas L. Waldron voted against allocating those dollars.
The issues were much the same Monday, although the city has new powers under a state “spot blight abatement” that would make it easier for the city to recoup money spent on the property. City Council was asked to spend $88,000 to “mothball” the house — replace the roof, paint leaking sides, and weatherize the outside, among other repairs to save it.
The house would still be condemned, likely an eyesore compared to its well-groomed neighbors and would require substantial work to be liveable.
But half of City Council said it is worth the effort. “We lose one of these two houses every two years and we’re not building any new ones,” Harrover said.
Terry Feaganes, the daughter of property owner Dorothy Feaganes, said the family fought bitterly over the house between 1989 and 2005 before her mother was given the property. During that time, it fell into disrepair.
She said city officials have not allowed her to apply for the proper permits to make repairs, a charge city officials deny. They say she did not adequately fill out the paperwork required on an historic home.
Feaganes said in an interview that if given the chance by Parrish, she would try to raise money to make repairs. “I hope so, yes, I want to do something.”
She said she thinks city officials want the land to build condominiums.
Her mother, Dorothy, said in an earlier interview that the family has fallen on hard times and hasn’t been able to raise funds. Still, she doesn’t want to sell.
“Some people don’t have sentimental value for anything,” Dorothy Feaganes said. Feaganes, who is in her 80s, said she hopes to live in the house again one day.