ROCKINGHAM — City leaders are giving a hotel owner a little more time to get things cleaned up and rebuild before taking further steps toward demolition.
In a 4-1 vote, the Rockingham City Council voted Tuesday to table a demolition ordinance for the former Regal Inn until the March meeting.
City Planner John Massey told councilmembers that his staff is still working with the owner, Carolina Lodgings, Inc., and that there are “some outstanding issues” with the way the general contractor wants to perform the work and the way the engineer has drawn the plans for the work to be performed and that the parties involved are working to resolve those issues.
An early morning fire swept through the hotel in late January of 2017, with three departments — Rockingham, Hamlet and Cordova — responding.
Building Inspector Tim Combs told the RO in August that the property owners — along with their architect, engineer and general contractor — met Aug. 15 with city officials for a hearing and, according to blueprints, it appeared that a new hotel, similar to the old one, was in the works at the same location. But, he added, more engineering plans were required before he could issue any permits.
Last month, Massey said very little work had been done following the 90-day period and the process had started over. At that time, he asked the council to give the property owner until this month.
“They have done more than most anybody else does,” Massey said.
“By the time I get you a demolition ordinance here, we have been completely blown off,” he continued. “These guys have put some effort in, so …”
When asked by Councilman Bennett Deane if he was confident about the progress being made, Massey said there was movement, but he couldn’t promise that the city will eventually have to tear it down.
“It has drug on for a while, I’ll readily admit that, and I have expressed my dissatisfaction to the owner about that several times,” Massey said. “Having said that, he has done everything he has said he was going to do — slowly — but he is getting there.”
Deane said the council and the public are ready for the situation to come to a conclusion.
City Manager Monty Crump pointed out that there is no money in the budget and that the cost of demolition and cleanup would be more than the city uses for that purpose each year.
“I know everybody’s anxious to do it, but it’s coming out of the taxpayers’ pocket, too,” Crump said. “So it behooves us to do everything we can … there are significant financial considerations to moving forward.”
When it came time for the vote, Mayor Pro Tem John Hutchinson was the lone dissenter.
“It’s been over two years — it’s an eyesore,” he said after the meeting. “We know it’s an eyesore, it’s time to take care of it.”
Hutchinson said Crump made a good point about saddling the taxpayers with the bill, but said the city could place a lien on the property for the cost of the demolition and “hopefully … recoup a big chunk of that, if there’s another commercial establishment that’s interested in using that same piece of property.”
“It’s at a key intersection and you presume it would be attractive to somebody at some reasonable price,” he added.
Councilwoman Anne Edwards added that with the upcoming Epicenter Festival at Rockingham Dragway and possible future events at Rockingham Speedway, “we need places for people to stay.”