City to weigh options on Gavis house

Posted: July 19, 2014

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — City officials have prepared alternatives if the agreed-upon repairs to the Gavis house are not completed by Wednesday — the date by which temporary stabilization should be finished to eliminate the structure’s potentially hazardous conditions.

During a work session onTuesday evening and a special meeting thereafter, the City Council will give city staff members direction on how to proceed if the repairs do not meet the conditions set forth in the agreement.

The staff members will inspect the house at 414 S. Braddock St. after the Wednesday deadline to determine if the homeowners, Martin and Claudette Gavis, are in compliance with the agreement.

If not, the council has three options:

Extend the deadline for the Gavises to complete the work, though the staff does not recommend this option, according to its comments attached to the work session agenda.

Direct city workers to complete the scope of the work outlined in the court order, estimated to cost between $250,000 and $300,000, and pass along the costs to the Gavises through a lien on the property.

Or complete a partial demolition of the house’s north wing to address the conditions. This would cost $30,000, significantly less than completing the repairs.

But that option is “not consistent with the city’s efforts to preserve the historic character of the downtown,” according to staff comments.

The house, the last intact example of Second Empire architecture in the city, was damaged by fire in 1984. The structure was placed on Preservation Virginia’s 2010 list of the 10 most-endangered historic sites in the state.

City Zoning and Inspections staff members have inspected conditions at the site since the agreement was signed by city officials and the Gavises in January.

Some work, such as the installation of wood bracing on floors and brick on the north wall, has been completed.

Yet, according to the staff report, much remains to be done, such as the replacement of floor joists, the installation of brick wall bracing and floor support beams and the completion of roofing repairs, among other requirements.

City officials and the Gavises’ attorney, Phillip Griffin II, were scheduled to meet on Friday for a status report. Interim City Manager Craig Gerhart did not return a call by evening, and Griffin declined to comment until The Winchester Star could speak with a city spokesman.

The City Council work session will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in Quarles Elementary School at 1310 S. Loudoun St. The council’s special meeting will begin afterward.

— Contact Derek Gomes at dgomes@winchesterstar.com