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Heritage House owners appeal demo order

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- The owners of the former Heritage House hotel have filed an appeal to a municipal court judge's decision demanding they tear down the blighted structure, court documents show.

Municipal Court Judge Willie Weaver ordered March 1 that Greenbrier Holdings L.L.C., the owners of the property, demolish the property within 121 days or risk the city tearing it down and charging them for the work.

Court records obtained Tuesday by the Herald show that Greenbrier's attorney, Alex Kaplan, filed a motion to appeal the ruling to the Dougherty County Superior Court March 30.

The order also demands that the case be heard before a jury.

City Attorney Nathan Davis said that the city's position was and remains that the structure at 732 West Oglethorpe Boulevard is a danger to the public and should be demolished.

"We're prepared to move forward. It's about the public safety, health and welfare," Davis said.

Davis also said that the city doesn't believe its an issue for a jury, but will continue to press for the demolition of the property.

"We contend that this is no issue for a jury, but will lay out the evidence and live testimony that we did during the municipal court hearing," Davis said.

Kaplan, who was with a client Tuesday morning and couldn't immediately comment but planned to later in the day, said in the March 1 hearing that Greenbrier had planned to develop the property but had been victims of the economic recession and had several development options slip away.

Once Weaver handed down his order, Kaplan asked for 270 days to demolish the property. Weaver opted instead for 121 days, after which the city will be allowed to move in and demolish the property and put a lien for the cost of demolition -- which is expected to eclipse $1 million -- against Greenbrier.

A review of tax records shows that the Heritage House property is again headed towards being sold at auction.

Last year, Greenbrier and its principal, Romeo Comeau, made an 11th-hour payment for delinquent property taxes to keep the property from being auctioned off.

According to Tax Director Denver Hooten, Comeau is again delinquent on his tax bill -- which is now up to more than $13,360 thanks to $1,735 in penalties and fees.

Comeau also owns another blighted property just a few blocks away from the Heritage House complex.

Now labeled the "Special Services Building," a former school building at 600 West Broad Avenue is overgrown with vegetation and sits vacant.

Again according to Hooten, Comeau owns $13,443 in delinquent property taxes on that building -- $5,327 of which are in penalties and fees. That property has also been hit with the city's blight tax which is a taxing mechanism that triples the portion of property taxes owed the city.