Avon demo debris dumped at demolisher's
At least since Tuesday, January 5, trucks from Parham Construction, the company contracted to demolish the former Charlottesville Lumber/Better Living Mill Shop building at 310 Avon Street, were discovered hauling debris from the site to company owner Ronnie Parham’s 76-acre home in the 2500-block of Scottsville Road and dumping it on a hillside in the woods. The morning of January 7, for instance, truckloads were still arriving at Parham’s property just 10 to 15 minutes apart and passing each other as they cruised along Route 20 South.
Wait a minute. Isn't that illegal?
According to Parham, however, he was just hauling cinder block, bricks, and dirt to his property to use as cover on his driveway, something that’s perfectly legal under County zoning code. He says they were also making room at the Avon site to build a detention pond to collect runoff as they complete the demo, which he says should take 75 to 90 days.
According to property manager Caroline Satira, the contract with Parham Construction handed all the salvage to them and provides that the company will “use its best efforts to recycle as much of the construction debris as possible.”
Parham says that copper is going to Cycle Systems, doors will be reused, plumbing fixtures are being donated to places like Habitat for Humanity, and some of the better timber is going to a local cabinet maker, whose name Parham declined to reveal. Parham also said that wood would be ground into mulch and concrete ground into fill on the Avon Street site.
“We try to recycle everything we possibly can,” says Parham. “I hate to have to take it to a landfill.”
However, photos taken by the Hook January 7 appear to show something other than concrete and dirt arriving at Parham’s property. But Parham insists that’s all he's taking.
“There’s very little that will not come out of that building for some kind of use,” he says.
County spokesperson Lee Catlin says that what Parham says he’s doing is allowed, but added that anyone who might have reason to believe that something other than concrete blocks and dirt were being disposed needs to notify county zoning inspectors before anything is investigated.
Last year, Catlin reminds a reporter, developer Charles Hurt got in some hot water when he used rubble from the parking garage that was demolished to make way for the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center as fill for a development on Garth Road. On a routine inspection, County inspectors found metal rebar embedded in the concrete, which can contaminate water supplies, and they issued a stop work order. According to a Daily Progress story, Hurt claimed he didn’t know it was against code to bury rebar. The developer had to remove all the rebar from the ground, a process that took weeks and cost $50,000, Hurt told the DP.
Nearby property owner Skip Willis, whose circa-1885 Beck-Cohen building is a historically protected property, wonders why the circa-1890 building next door was unprotected, and why much of the old post and beam construction had to go to waste. He also questions whether or not the building was truly unsafe, one of the main reasons the owners gave for tearing it down, as the Mill Shop was operating in the building just three months ago.
Asked why he thought the building was so hastily demolished, especially because there are no immediate plans to develop the property, Willis said they probably wanted to "get it down as quickly as possible" before anyone tried to have it historically protected, which can be both a blessing and a curse for property owners. For instance, when Willis's building was designated, it put an extra burden on potential buyers of the property, making it more difficult to sell, but he says he's perfectly happy with the designation now.
In particular, Willis wonders why the Charlottesville Lumber/Better Living Mill Shop building wasn't added to the list of 100 or so Individually Protected Properties the City has designated.
As previously reported, the old Charlottesville Lumber/Better Living Mill Shop building fell just outside the boundries of the Downtown Architectural Design Control district, but as Willis points out, it was still eligible for individual protection.
In a 2008 effort, city preservation planner Mary Joy Scala says that hundreds of old buildings were considered for protection, but only eight were designated; the Mill Shop building did not make the list.
"I don't recall that Charlottesville Lumber was recommended by any of the experts we called on," says Scala. " It certainly would have been considered a contributing building in a district; I don't know if it was significant enough to be individually designated."
Scala also mentions that there was an effort in 2008 to protect all 100-plus year old buildings from demolition, but that that type of blanket designation is not enabled in Virginia.
–-updated 1/12/10 2:10pm