The City of Williams has issued an abatement notice to the owner of the old Odd Fellows Building in Williams, instructing him to repaint the building a color that matches with a pre-approved paint palette for the city’s Downtown Commercial Zoning District, or risk the city repainting the building and charging him for it.
The building owner, Raymond Randle, has until Jan. 31 to repaint the building in an acceptable color. If he fails to do so, the city can obtain an abatement warrant, allowing it to go onto the property and repaint the building, and put a lien on the property for the cost.
According to City Administrator Frank Kennedy, the city reached out to the owner of the building, Raymond Randle, and encouraged him to meet with city officials to discuss the issue and pick up the appropriate application and work through the application procedure with the city planner, but that Randle failed to do so.
“We’ve given him, I think, at least a week to work through that procedure and make a proper application. He failed to pick that up,” Kennedy said.
As a result, the city initiated the abatement procedure to compel Randle to repaint the building to comply with the city’s zoning code restrictions for the Downtown Commercial District. City officials said Randle was informed of the restrictions on paint color when he initially came to town.
“We have started that procedure; it’s a procedure we’ve used successfully in the past on just a couple of other occasions, that allows for some appeals,” Kennedy said during last Wednesday’s city council meeting.
The new color of the old Odd Fellows Building in Williams has caused complaints from nearby business owners to come pouring in, City Administrator Frank Kennedy said at last week’s city council meeting.
“The city has received the second most complaints ever, on any singular issue, on the color – only second to the odors that Morning Star had about three years ago,” Kennedy said. “So, it was a hotly debated question, and we want to move and abate that.”
While the non-compliant color of the building has drawn the most attention from the public, Kennedy said that it was a symptom of a larger problem.
There has been ongoing contention between the city and Randle regarding the building. The city previously ‘red tagged’ it – meaning it can not be occupied – for a number of safety issues and violations, and has said that Randle continues to work on the building without the appropriate building permits to address those issues. Randle, an African American man, accused the city of racial prejudice and discrimination at the city council’s July 18, 2018 meeting, and said that the building had been red tagged without merit. Council members denied that bias had anything to do with the fact that the historic Odd Fellows building has major code violations, is unsafe to passerby, has cracks in the structure, and that Randle had refused to follow the city’s municipal code or obtain the proper permits to work on the building.
Last week, Kennedy reiterated that the concerns with the building were solely related to its safety and Randle’s unwillingness to obtain necessary permits to conduct work on the building. City Attorney Ann Siprelle said the city had issued some permits to Randle, but that the work he was allowed to do under those permits was limited in scope. Despite the red tag the city has placed on the building, Randle – a licensed contractor – is allowed to do the work in the building, limited to what the city has already permitted. But city officials said they believe he has done work outside of what he has obtained permits for.
“Some of the things, like the painting… he seems to be doing without any permission,” Siprelle said. Later in the meeting, she added that “there are some evaluations of the building that point out many, many things that need to be corrected, and the current owner just refuses to apply to do any of those things.”
Siprelle said that the city would not allow Randle to occupy the building until the safety concerns had been addressed, and that if Randle had undertaken any work without the proper permits and inspections, he was running the risk of the city ordering him to tear it out.
Kennedy added that the city’s options were limited in the meantime.
“He’s not coming to us with anything, so it’s hard for us to push some action if he’s not coming to us saying, ‘I want to do this,’” Kennedy said. “There’s been some talk of a couple of restaurants, a hair salon, an ice cream parlor – but there’s no application out there. There’s no permit requests. He’s not moving towards fixing the red tag. So as far as the city is concerned, we’re kind of in a holding pattern until he comes to us with what he wants to do and (makes) a request for something. The paint is something we are moving on, because there is a definite, actionable course for us to follow.”■