At a public hearing Monday night, Dover City Council members ordered representatives of the House of Pride to shutter two of its properties and gave the group an additional 30 days to bring a third property up to code.
In doing so, council members, by unanimous decision, upheld an order from the city Department of Planning that the homes be vacated due to numerous and recurring code violations.
City Director of Planning and Community Development Ann Marie Townshend told council the homes must meet current inspection standards before they can be issued new certificates of occupancy.
Two of the properties, 20 N. New St., and 37 S. New St., currently are unoccupied, while the third, 29 S. New St., is home to four men. If that property is not up to code within 30 days, it also will be ordered vacated and closed down.
At issue was a July 25 order by the city Department of Planning to close and vacate the buildings. Townshend told council members the orders came following inspections on April 24 that detailed violations that had not been corrected by the time of a second inspection on July 8.
Physical code violations included rotting window frames, haphazard wiring, broken and missing electrical fixtures, deactivated smoke detectors and missing floor tiles, Townshend said.
House of Pride founder and director Marian L. Harris was not present, having previously announced her decision to retire from that post effective Sept. 1. The organization was represented at Monday night’s public hearing on the closure order by La Mar T. Gunn, president and CEO of Gunn Wealth Management. Stating he is an accredited certified fundraising executive, Gunn told council members he was brought in by the current House of Pride board of directors to develop a new strategic plan for the group. That plan includes restructuring the board and moving the group’s headquarters outside the city limits, Gunn said.
Gunn told council members the House of Pride has cleared up all violations noted by the city and is “excited” at the prospect of working with the city.
He was accompanied by Bishop Marion Lott, a member of the House of Pride board, who told council the group fully intends to meet city codes and wants to open the three homes up as single-family dwellings for homeless families. The organization has corrected all of the violations pointed out by Townshend’s inspectors, he said.
“We have worked with the city from July all the way to now,” Lott said. “We’ve had inspectors come in and are working with them to make sure all the codes are met.”
The current board understands the history of the House of Pride’s relationship with the planning department and has made changes to make sure the continual violations are resolved, he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Founded more than 30 years ago, the House of Pride had functioned as a recovery center for substance abusers, but in September 2012 gave up that status. The city revoked conditional use permits that allowed the properties, all former single family homes, to be used as dormitory-type residences. Although there was evidence this continued after the permits were canceled, this was not an issue at Monday night’s public hearing.
In other actions, council unanimously upheld a city order to demolish a dangerous property at 710 Slaughter St., owned by Clarence L. Stevenson and others. No one appeared to contest the order at a public hearing.
Council also upheld an order to demolish a pool and pump house at 123 Blue Beach Drive, despite a 15-minute appeal from property owner Deborah Statler. Statler stridently contested the order, saying many of the supposed violations were incorrect and that she had worked to correct others.