Manassas mayor backs Prescott house option that includes possible demolition

February 28, 2012

Manassas prides itself on its historic roots, so it comes as little surprise that for the better part of two decades city leaders have sought to preserve a 100-year-old house that once stood as a proud testament to a bygone time but has since withered and decayed.

But now the city’s fight to save 9300 Prescott Ave. may have come to an end.

Mayor Harry J. “Hal” Parrish II (R) on Monday cast a tie-breaking vote in support of a measure that gives the homeowner about a four-month window to fix up the Queen Anne-style house — or it could face demolition.

Parrish’s decision means owner Dorothy Feaganes has 30 days to fix the distinctive, but crumbling, porch and 90 days to make repairs on the house itself.

The city has long debated whether to step in to preserve the historic home, once voting to spend thousands to shore it up but then reversing that decision. Parrish said he hopes that the house will be saved but that he chose action over what some view as city leaders’ persistent waffling.


The historic home on Prescott Avenue. (Jeremy Borden/THE WASHINGTON POST)

The possibility of demolition surprised neighbors who have fought for the house. Neighbors hoped to form a committee to pressure Bank of America, the servicer on the house’s Department of Housing and Urban Development-backed reverse mortgage, to foreclose on the home in hopes it could be resold.

Parrish said a Bank of America official told him that the bank has a moratorium on foreclosures.

“It’s time for the owner to step up and do the right thing,” Parrish said. “My hope is it doesn’t get to demolition.”

In 2007, then-City Council member Parrish voted to allocate money for repairs to the house before reversing his vote weeks later. That proposal ultimately failed.

Council member Mark D. Wolfe (R), who put forward the 30 day/90 day plan, has said that without signs of “substantial” work, the city should demolish a house that officials say could soon become a safety hazard. Two other council members supported the measure, and three voted against it, leaving Parrish to break the tie.

Feaganes, who is in her 80s and attended the meeting with her daughter Terry, declined to comment. She has said that she would never sell the house because it has been in her family a long time and that she hopes to live there again.

Terry Feaganes told the council that she would use retirement savings to begin repairs and said officials have exaggerated the house’s condition. “I want to save my house, I do,” she said.

For Parrish, the issue seemed to be at a tipping point. City officials condemned the house, and no one has lived there for years

He said Dorothy Feaganes declined to meet with him in recent weeks, and at the meeting, he read a string of court orders, letters, liens and City Council decisions that date to 1996 asking her to repair the house.

Parrish said that if he had rejected the plan, some council members would have put forward a proposal to spend $88,000 on repairs. He predicted a tie that would have left the city back where it started.

Residents at the meeting were divided over preserving a historic home and spending taxpayer dollars on private property. “I don’t believe that government bailouts are necessary for anyone,” Jennifer Basinger said.

Others pushed to save the house. “Without the past, it’s like you don’t have a compass, you don’t have a road map,” Mickey Tamer said.

The city’s Architectural Review Board, which generally fights to save historic structures, took the unusual step of endorsing the option that could end in demolition. Board vice chairman Tom Waters said the city has spent too much time without any progress.

“Take decisive action on the fate of the house by voting to give the owners only 90 more days . . . if not, demolish it,” Waters said. “Maybe they will get the message. History says they will not.”

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