Council votes to demolish Brown building

Raymond Willis, left, and Linda Wheeler, right, speak during the Strasburg Town Council meeting Tuesday night. The pair offered $10,000 for the purchase of the Brown property at 128 East King and they wanted to give the building to Lydia's Clothing Basket. Town Council voted to demolish the structure. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Town Council voted Tuesday to demolish the Brown building at 218 E. King St. and move forward with a community park.

The vote came to the chagrin of a vocal group of citizens who have lobbied council to preserve the historic building since its purchase for $100,000 in September.

Council voted 4-3 to demolish the building, with Councilmen John “Red” Hall Jr., Shirley Maddox, Kim Bishop and Jocelyn Vena voting for demolition and Councilmen Seth Newman, Scott Terndrup and Don Le Vine opposed.

Maddox offered the proposal, which Bishop seconded.

Speaking for the minority, Le Vine said he’s confused by the idea. He said after citizens made two separate cash offers for the building during the citizen comment forum, he doesn’t understand why council would instead choose to shell out the roughly $40,000 cost of demolition.

Strasburg Councilman Don LeVine speaks during Tuesday's council meeting. After citizens made two separate cash offers for the Brown building, LeVine said that he doesn't understand why the council would instead choose to shell out the $40,000 cost of demolition. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I can’t understand the logic of not going forward with the RFP [request for proposals],” he said. “The RFP as written doesn’t bind the town to accept any offer, but it gives us a chance to figure out whether people will put up money for this building … I think we owe it to the town.”

At last week’s work session, council tentatively decided to issue a request for proposal on the building. However, Maddox’s motion nixed the idea.

None of the council members favoring demolition offered comment during the meeting on their decision.

Following the vote, a swarm of citizens walked out of the meeting. Several of them made disparaging remarks about council on the way out.

After the demolition vote, council voted on a related matter to exempt the town from its Unified Development Ordinance code that would require it to leave a building up for sale for a period of time based on its value, prior to demolition.

It passed the resolution 5-2, with Newman and Le Vine in the minority.

This second vote also drew ire from Le Vine. He said the town letting itself out of its own rules is hypocritical and setting a dangerous precedent, worse than the precedent of gifting buildings.

“It says the town can write ordinances and then can back out whenever they want to,” he said.

In response, Town Manager Ryan Spitzer said given the value of the Brill building alone, Council would need to wait a full year before taking action, a delay that would lead to the loss of funding from the Community Development Block Grant, which is funding much of the community park. He added that council avoided the issue a year ago when it was brought up.

Several council members in the majority said they voted in favor of the exemption to get the matter over with and move on.

Hall said it’s time to move forward and heal.

“Let’s get this thing over with and let everybody start healing,” he said.

Council’s two decisions came after a citizen comment forum in which nine people all spoke in opposition to demolishing the Brown building.

During that forum, Linda Wheeler and Raymond Willis went so far as to put forth a written $10,000 joint offer to the town to purchase the building and give it to Lydia’s Clothing Basket.

Following Wheeler, one other citizen made an offer of $12,000 for the building. However, it was unclear whether it was a legitimate offer or an off-the-cuff remark.

Also speaking at the meeting, Brenda James, a lifelong resident, said council is dismantling Strasburg’s history if it goes forward with the demolition.

“You’re taking Strasburg away, piece by piece, and soon a new Manassas will be born,” she said.

Council will convene at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Its regularly scheduled meeting was moved forward one day due to the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or jzuckerman@nvdaily.com