Downtown homeowner told to demolish house

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - 30 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. That's the penalty one downtown homeowner says he's facing from the City of Charleston if he doesn't tear down his house in the next 10 days. But the City of Charleston says it's just procedure.

Ray Ward has spent the last two days trying to clean up what's left of the home he owns and has rented out since 2002 at 11 Nunan Street.

Just days before the New Year his house was devoured by a fire that was set next door at 13 Nunan Street.

On top of the charred walls, burnt furniture and memories Ward has made at the property over the last decade, he found out last week he's got another problem.

"I went to my mailbox last Wednesday and one of the letters in my mail was from the City telling me I had ten days to have that burnt out structure taken down," says Ward, referring to the two story wooden skeleton that was once his house. "The letter said that I would be subject to 30 days in jail and $1,092 fine if I didn't get the thing down. I was floored."

And the letter said just that. In a copy Live 5 News obtained from the homeowner Ward was cited by a code enforcement officer he was in violation of ordinance 21-52 of the City of Charleston.

His violation is having a vacant building which is covered under the public nuisance ordinance. The Livability Court asks Ward to "please take action to completely remove the burnt down structure."

At the bottom of the notice it gives Ward 10 days to rectify the conditions the letter set.

City of Charleston planning director Tim Keane says Ward will have to take action to tear down his house because it's a safety hazard for the community but just starting the process or showing he is being pro-active will satisfy the City's request and free him of legal action taken against him.

"There's no pending action at all," said Keane, Tuesday over the telephone. "What he got was a letter that says please give us a call and we can talk about this. All that we're going to do is try to help him find the right contractor and get the building demolished."

Keane says the letter was sent to Ward because the homeowner and the City had not been able to get in contact since the fire severely damaged the home. The letter was sent to protect the City just in case Ward was going to abandon the home.

Estimates to demolish the house are coming in anywhere between $8,000 - $12,000 dollars, a sum that Ward hopes will be covered by his home owners insurance.

But to avoid being charged for the public nuisance ordinance and get more time to work with contractors to tear down his property, Ward says he's getting the ball rolling.

"I have an eyesore here and we're going to work on getting it down," he says.

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