Hubbard calls for special counsel to take lead in Heritage House demolition

Photo by Barry Levine

Photo by Barry Levine

ALBANY -- Ward II Commissioner and Mayoral Candidate Dorothy Hubbard told reporters Friday that she believes the city commission should take a more aggressive approach at bringing down the blighted Heritage House hotel and should dedicate its newest attorney to focus on the court battle.

Hubbard, who has made demolition of blighted properties the cornerstone of her campaign for mayor, said Friday that the people want the eyesore on Oglethorpe to come down and that the commission should do everything in its power to do that.

"That's why I think we need to pick an attorney from our staff to be a special prosecutor ... to focus on this, and push it through so that we can be done with this. The people I've talked to want this building to be demolished."

Specifically, Hubbard said that the city's newest assistant city attorney, Schimere Chisholm, should be designated as special counsel and focus solely on the legal issues of bringing the structure down.

The city came out on the winning end of a court decision earlier this year when Chief Municipal Court Judge Willie Weaver ruled that the property was a danger to the public health and safety and ordered owner Romeo Comeau to demolish it within six months.

If he couldn't get it done in that time frame, Weaver ordered the city to step in and demolish the property and put a lien for the cost of the work on the property.

Comeau has appealed that decision to superior court where it is working its way through the legal process.

On May 17, Comeau, through his attorney, filed a petition for equitable relief, asking the court to permanently block any attempt by the city to demolish the property and make the city bear the responsibility for the property because he said it was the city's planning department that allowed the building to fall into the state it's in when it granted a permit for the previous owner, Marvin Baptiste, to do work on the building.

Comeau contends that if the city hadn't granted Baptiste a permit, Baptiste wouldn't have disturbed the asbestos in the building and made it a "hardship" to repair or demolish the building.

Comeau is asking Judge Stephen Goss for a jury trial to determine the fate of the building.

If the city is able to demolish the property, it likely won't be cheap -- estimates range from $500,000 to $1 million. But Hubbard said that as a commissioner and, if elected mayor, she would write the check to bring it down "because that's the will of the people."