The Purcellville Town Council’s effort to cash in on an unused property has hit a new hurdle.
During its Sept. 14 meeting, the council was briefed on the effort to solicit bids to purchase the Pullen house property, located along South 20th Street adjacent to the Bush Tabernacle/Firemen’s Field complex. The property is comprised of two lots totaling 0.51 acres. Last week, the town announced an extension in the bid submission deadline from Sept. 13 to Sept. 20.
During Tuesday’s council meeting staff members said that potential bidders had raised concerns about a proposed town ordinance that would expand and tighten restrictions on the demolition of buildings deemed to contribute to the town’s historic district designation.
The ordinance changes, begun after a developer announced plans to raze two Hatcher Street homes to build apartments, is under review by the Planning Commission. The proposal has raised homeowner concerns that under the proposed ordinance, they could be required to wait for a year or even be forced to offer their property for sale before being permitted to take down structures on their properties. Following a July public hearing where the concerns were aired, the commission has been refining the approach.
Staff members told the council that potential bidders who have toured the property anticipate that the home, which has been vacant since the town bought it in was purchased by the town in 2011 for $175,000, is too dilapidated to save. Before submitting bids, some sought assurance that they would not be prevented from tearing it down or face long delays because of the expanded preservation efforts.
Faced with a decision to offer a specific exemption to the Pullen property ensuring the new rules would not apply, council members agreed the “optics” would not be good in the public.
The council concluded that the property should comply with town procedures for demolition, with Mayor Kwais Fraser noting that the once-fast-tracked ordinance change may take years to reach adoption.
While the council expressed no concern about preserving the home, members agreed to require bidders to submit plans to protect the large oak tree on the lot. That could require bidders to work with an arborist to determine how the demolition and redevelopment could be accomplished without threatening the long-term health of the tree.