Town loses on Pierceville enforcement

Published 5:47 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Property owner renews bid to demolish house

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The plight of Pierceville and its elderly owner, Mary Delk Crocker, is once again before the Smithfield Town Council.

The Smithfield Town Council is considering Crocker’s application to demolish the circa 1730 Dutch Colonial house by right. The house is in poor and continually declining condition. 

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The application was on the agenda for Tuesday’s Public Buildings and Welfare Committee meeting. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

In April, Isle of Wight County Circuit Court ruled that that town had to reverse its notice of violation concerning the upkeep of the house. 

Judge Carl E. Eason Jr. ruled that the town cannot require Mrs. Crocker to maintain her home as it has no such authority, said Crocker’s attorney, Archer Jones. 

The latest issue before the Town Council stems from an application filed by Crocker in 2017 to demolish the house and outbuildings, which was denied at the time by BHAR and the Town Council.

Jones said his client chose to let the house sit on the market for a year, as stipulated in the town ordinance, before renewing the application.  

Town staff recommends that the application be denied and cited the purpose of the town’s historic ordinance being the preservation of historic structures. 

Jones said if the town denies the application, his client will likely take the issue to the court. 

Jones bases his demolition request on 15.2306 (A)(3), in the Code of Virginia, which allows for the demolition of historic property if there has been no offer to buy it within a year’s time, as well as other stipulations.  He also cites the town’s ordinance as cause.

The historic Pierceville house, located at 502 Grace St., has been a subject of public controversy since 2009, when it was first found to be in violation of the town’s preservation ordinance. 

It is considered one of the oldest houses in Smithfield. 

The property was put on the market in 2014, and a developer offered to build a 151-unit neighborhood on the 58-acre farm, but later withdrew his plans in the face of public opposition. 

The developer’s plans led to the creation of Preserve Smithfield, a nonprofit group that wanted to turn the property into a working colonial farm, but those plans have not come to fruition. 

Crocker also attempted to give the house and a half-acre to the town, but that offer was rejected.  {/mprestriction}