The City of Petersburg continues to work to find innovative ways to cover the potential costs for demolition and/or abatement of unsafe conditions on the old Ramada Hotel at 380 E. Washington Street. On April 6, 2021, City Council adopted an Ordinance declaring the property to constitute a blighted property and a public nuisance to the community and directed the City Attorney and City Manager to take action to compel the owner to “abate, raze, or remove the public nuisance.”
On April 23, 2021, City Attorney Anthony C. Williams issued a letter to the Director of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) David K. Paylor seeking to determine whether or not local waste contractor Meridian Waste Acquisitions, LLC could be permitted to perform abatement/demolition services on the old Ramada property “pro bono” in lieu of or as an offset to civil penalties imposed by DEQ upon Meridian for its operation of the Tri-Cities Landfill.
There are two cases relating to this matter. The first, Commonwealth v. The CFS Group Disposal & Recycling Services, LLC, CL18-782-00, is pending in Petersburg Circuit Court. In this case, the Commonwealth seeks injunctive relief and civil charges based on alleged violations of the solid waste management permit and associated regulations at the Tri-City Regional Landfill. This case has been stayed while the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) administrative action and related appeal, described below, are completed, as many of the issues addressed by the administrative action are the same as those asserted in this lawsuit.
The second, CFS Group Disposal and Recycling Services, LLC v. Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, CL19-5506, is pending before the Richmond Circuit Court. This case is an administrative appeal of the DEQ Order issued following a formal administrative hearing held by DEQ. The Order directs closure and other actions to be taken at the Tri-City Regional Landfill based on alleged violations of the solid waste management permit and associated regulations at the Tri-City Regional Landfill. Settlement discussions have been initiated between CFS and the Commonwealth to resolve both cases.
CFS has now agreed to close the landfill. A closure plan has been submitted and approved by DEQ, and is in the process of being implemented. This closure plan includes important and significant upgrades to the gas collection system and stormwater system at the landfill. The primary outstanding issue to resolve these cases is agreement on a civil charge. DEQ’s most recent proposal included payment of a civil charge to settle these cases.
The City proposes to replace or offset the civil penalties similar to the provision of “community service” whereby Meridian will provide demolition and abatement services including disposal of the waste for no charge to the City as an offset or in lieu of the civil penalties.
“This could be a win-win situation for the City of Petersburg, for Meridian, and for Mr. Harrison if DEQ will allow Meridian to help us with this difficult situation. Regardless, the City will continue to press forward and do all it can to ensure that this property is rendered in a safe condition for our citizens” said Mayor Sam Parham. Senator Joseph Morrisey indicates “if we are going to address significant blighting issues like this, we all need to work together at the state and local levels of government. It is my hope that DEQ will work with Petersburg and allow Meridian to perform this desperately needed service.”
On March 12, 2021, the Petersburg Property Maintenance Official, Brad Shupp, issued a “Repair or Demolish Notice” to the Virginia Hotel Development Group LLC; Christopher A. Harrison; and C.A. Harrison Companies, LLC for the Old Ramada Inn property located at 380 E. Washington Street. The Notice follows a January 19, 2021 inspection conducted by the Petersburg Department of Neighborhood Services and engineering consultants along with the City Attorney. The inspection, performed with the consent of the owner of the property, was for the purpose of identifying any potentially dangerous conditions on the property as a result of its apparent dilapidated state.
The Repair or Demolish Notice includes a copy of a fifty-seven (57) page document prepared by Moseley Architects entitled “Ramada Inn Observations Document” wherein the engineering consulting firm indicates “The City may utilize this Ramada Inn Observation Documentation (RIOD) as additional information and in support for compelling the owner to make repairs or consider demolition of the existing building and parking deck.” The Repair or Demolish Notice issued to the owner provides “Notice is hereby served that the owner of the structure is required to abate the nuisance by demolishing or repairing the building within sixty (60) days.”
The Notice also includes a copy of a “Report of Unsafe and Unsecured Structure that is Unfit for Human Habitation Pursuant to VPMC 106.2” issued by Property Maintenance Official Shupp, wherein he concludes that the building is unsafe and unfit for human occupancy and “constitutes such a hazard that it should be razed or removed.” The Notice also includes copies of an “Interior Housing Report” and “Exterior Housing Report” identifying specific violations totaling over $14,000.00 in potential civil fines if not timely abated.
In December of 2020, a letter was issued by the Property Maintenance Official to the owners and property managers of the subject property, requesting access to the property pursuant to Section 36-105(C) of the Code of Virginia (a step required prior to obtaining an Administrative Inspection Warrant). The letter states:
“I am writing you with regard to your property located at 380 E. Washington Street, Petersburg, Virginia (the “old Ramada Hotel”). As you know, this property has a long history of Property Maintenance Issues dating back to 2013 wherein the City issued a Repair or Demolition Notice to the former owners for violations of the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code and Virginia Property Maintenance Code.
Since your acquisition of the property the conditions have continued to deteriorate. In October of 2019, you were issued a Notice of Violation and ordered to remove loose materials that could endanger life or damage property, and to properly secure the entire building and lot to prevent entry. Criminal summonses for these ongoing issues remain outstanding for you in relation to these violations.”
This letter goes on to recite a history of ongoing civil penalties relating to the dilapidated condition of the property as well.
Read the full letter to DEQ HERE