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Sugar Hill decides dilapidated house must be demolished

SUGAR HILL -- The Sugar Hill City Council at its monthly work session Monday night dealt with an uncomfortable issue cities sometimes must.

The council of Gwinnett County's third largest city upheld Building Official Burny Agee's recommendation that a dilapidated home on Aurelio Pelcastre's downtown property at 4959 West Broad St. at Alton Tucker Boulevard be torn down within 60 days.

Upon inspection, Agee on Aug. 9 posted notice that it was unsafe and uninhabitable and on Sept. 21 served notice to Pelcastre to demolish the property. Pelcastre's Oct. 7 appeal warranted the council addressing the matter Monday.

With Pelcastre present, Agee showed the council numerous pictures of the home's substandard condition inside and out, including photos illustrating what he deemed dangerous electrical and heating, as well as precarious foundation. Striking were pictures of floor joists apparently stilted by stacked brick in the basement, as well as an open electrical panel.

The city estimated restoration of the home to code would cost more than half its approximated $45,000 value, which Agee said is the informal guideline of whether restoration is feasible. Agee estimated bringing Pelcastre's home to code would cost nearly twice its value.

"If this were found in a retail establishment, I'd have closed it down immediately," Agee told the council. "This is just improper and unsafe."

Pelcastre fielded council members' questions about the small, potentially 70-year-old home he said he bought 12 years ago and initially planned to use commercially, before renting it residentially.

"If the house was sold to me that way, how come you want me to tear down my house?" Pelcastre asked. "I understand some repairs need to be done, but not tear down my house. That's my investment, my whole life."

Later acknowledging the situation was uncomfortable, Agee estimated Pelcastre was only the third resident in 10 years to protest an order to tear down a home deemed uninhabitable. In another case, Agee recalled ordering a home on Appling Road be demolished, before its owner suitably restored it.

After asking several questions of Pelcastre, Mayor Gary Pirkle said upon the council taking its vote, "(Considering) the heating issues and structural issues, I tend to agree with the inspector that the house has outlived its useful life."