Weatherford Democrat

Aledo ExtrA

May 26, 2014

Historic Aledo home demolished

Church at the Crossing cited for lack of permit

WEATHERFORD — By JUDY SHERIDAN

The Aledo City Council Thursday reluctantly approved continuing the demolition of an old white frame house on FM Road 1187 in the city’s historic downtown district.

There was not much else they could do. The owners of the house — Church at the Crossing —  had already begun the demolition without asking for a permit, giving the city no opportunity to review a request.

The misstep resulted in a $500 fine, with more to be paid once a citation makes its way through municipal court.

Mayor Kit Marshall told an apologetic Jay Gramer, chairman of the property committee for Church at the Crossing, that the city had “a black eye” and she, personally, had taken a “beating” from the public for the irreparable damage a contractor inflicted on the house about two weeks ago.

“We care deeply about the city’s history,” she said, explaining that the council had made it a priority since 2006. “History is very important to us because it’s important to those we serve.”

Gramer said he didn’t know how old the house was, but City Administrator Ken Pfeifer said a family member with a connection to the house had contacted the city, asking to retrieve log cabin wood inside it.

“When you were considering this, did it not cross anybody’s mind to come to the city?” Mayor Pro Tem Bill McLeRoy asked. “Did you or the contractor have any idea of the historic boundaries of the city?”

“No, we did not,” Gramer said. “We’re not trying to run from the fact that we made a mistake. It’s one that’s very visible, and it’s unpleasant.”

Gramer explained that the church thought the demolition contractor, Marshall Landers, had obtained the required permit from the city, while Landers thought the church had done so.

“I didn’t get a third of the way into [the demolition],” he said later. “I got the add-ons and a little way into the historic part when the city stopped us.”

Marshall asked why the house had not been moved and repurposed, as another house owned by the church had been.

Several different companies were consulted as to moving it, Gramer said, but all declined for liability reasons, fearing it would fall apart.

“It’s been remodeled many times, with the walls knocked down, and there’s not a whole lot of what was originally there,” he said, adding that the house was infested with termites.

While not every old house is historic, it’s important to have an evaluation process, said Councilmember Jean Bailey, who described the structure as “a good little house opening into the historic area.”

“This is why we have this system, so each house will be looked at, and so we don’t all wind up being smacked by everybody when they see something like this happening,” she said.

“My big issue is we have all these things in place to protect what little heritage we have … I wish we had looked at our penalties a little more, because, frankly … I would like to slap you with something really big … partly as a precedent ... $500 is nothing.”

Pfeifer said the city has a good ordinance in place related to preserving and moving historic structures, but not everyone is aware of it.

“I’d encourage staff to talk to people who live in the business district,” council member Kerby Smith said. “It’s uncomfortable to be retroactive. Certainly we can prevent these things through communication.”

Discussion Thursday night indicated the barricaded partially-destroyed house would be demolished soon to allieviate safety concerns.

In response to Bailey’s question as to the future of the vacant lot, Gramer said a green space was planned, perhaps with a small sign.

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