‘Brown Derby’ Building Headed For Demolition?

by Carla Occaso

MONTPELIER — Fix it up, or tear it down. That was the message conveyed during the city council meeting July 26 when discussing the demise of 101 Northfield Street.

Known as the Econo Lodge, (but it is actually a building next to the motel that used to house the ‘Brown Derby’ Supper Club), city officials said not only is the uninhabitable property an eyesore, strewn with garbage and covered in graffiti, but it also poses a real safety risk both to people who may try to gain access and to public safety officials who would have to respond to an emergency there.

“My main concern is that people are able to access that building, even though the main floor area has been boarded up, people can get up on the roof. (Someone) could accidentally start a fire in winter by trying to stay warm or by using smoking materials, (which would cause) danger to our firefighters,” said Fire Chief Robert Gowans. If an emergency responder had to report to the building to rescue someone inside, they would face multiple dangers since the building is deteriorating and structurally unsound.

Access is only obtainable by getting on the roof, which is sagging and unstable. The floor is failing and the basement is full of water and has been for years, it was said.

“Firefighters could fall through that floor into a basement full of water,” Gowans said. Additionally, Gowans said there is evidence people have been on the roof.

Also testifying at the hearing was Chris Lumbra, city building inspector and health officer. Responding to questions by City Manager William Fraser, Lumbra said he conducted a recent inspection and found multiple violations of the city’s new nuisance ordinance. “I found the property was an unattractive nuisance,” Lumbra said. He has found that though it is clearly dilapidated and structurally unsound, people had gained access to the roof and sprayed graffiti in places only accessible by roof.

In addition, “It appears that area is used by vagrants. Also, the premises lack sanitary sewer and plumbing facilities,” water meters were removed in 2009 and there is no means for heating and water. The interior is “sodden due to roof leaks” and the basement is flooded.

Therefore, it was agreed the premises is unsafe for human habitation with no electricity, no utilities, no light, no running water, windows and doors boarded over and all means of egress obstructed.

Without much discussion except to explore what steps city officials have taken to communicate with the owner and to ascertain whether the owner was alerted to the hearing, city council members obeyed Mayor John Hollar’s request to go into executive session without stating a reason for entering executive session. They came out of executive session and unanimously voted to deem the property a ‘nuisance.’

“We recommend a nuisance order issued by August 10,” Fraser had said earlier.

The property owner is COPS, Inc. represented by Rakesh Sachev. The city has had ongoing communications with the property owner about violations, but has not been satisfied with the response. Though the company was invited by certified mail to attend the hearing, they did not attend.

Ultimately, if COPS, Inc. fails to address safety concerns outlined by the Building Inspection Report, the building could be demolished at the owner’s expense under the ordinance.

The Bridge called in to the Econo Lodge and was told the building owner has offices at the Holiday Inn in Rutland, which is one of the six properties owned by the company. Attempts to reach management were unsuccessful, although a message was left.

More information can be found at http://montpelier-vt.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1747&meta_id=70122.

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