Homeowner given month on repairs

Posted: April 24, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — A city homeowner received a one-month reprieve Tuesday before a board could consider whether his house is unsafe.

Based on his written request and the submission of a structural engineering report, Martin B. Gavis of 414 S. Braddock St. had a Board of Building Code Appeals hearing regarding his home tabled until May 21.

The latest violation at the Gavis home was triggered by a citizen report on March 4 that part of the north wall of the house had collapsed — which was confirmed by a subsequent inspection.

City building official John Knight told board members that Gavis delivered the engineering report earlier Tuesday and indicated he’s ready to repair the heavily damaged structure.

“He agreed to come in next week to set a plan,” Knight said, “and we’ll see if we can find one that he’ll stick to. We’re kind of marching toward compliance with him.”

The Gavis home was severely damaged in a 1984 arson. City officials say some damage from that blaze still hasn’t been repaired, and the structure has deteriorated from neglect.

Following a preliminary determination of blight in 2010, Gavis submitted a blight-abatement plan to repair violations.

A report Knight prepared for the building-code board states that some progress was made on that plan, but many problems remain.

The report states that a section of the north wall measuring approximately 10 feet by 10 feet collapsed on or about March 4. The wall is load bearing.

“It should be noted that this collapse did not take place during a unique weather event ... but rather was a sudden failure of this wall,” Knight’s report states.

According to the report, building officials also found missing and loose bricks on the wall, deterioration of exterior brick mortar joints and deterioration of the damaged roof — which prevents it from protecting the wall.

“When taken together,” the report states, “these violations of the Virginia Maintenance Code have resulted in an unsafe condition for the structure. With the continued deterioration of the exterior brickwork and damaged roof, it is likely that there will be continued structural failings in this portion of the structure.”

Knight told board members that Gavis will be given a “step-by-step plan” to make the wall structurally sound again.

“He should be very well into those repairs within 30 days, according to his timeline,” Knight said.

Board member Christopher A. Molden said he favored allowing Gavis a chance to show that he can comply with a repair plan.

“If he’s shown that he’s making an effort to work with the building official,” Molden said, “I think we ought to let him work with him.”

The meeting was the first in three years for the board, which gathers when a building-code violation citation is appealed.

Gavis and the city have been battling over numerous issues for months, and he has pending appeals of one criminal and two civil cases he lost in Winchester General District Court.

Gavis is scheduled for trial on June 18 for his appeal of a misdemeanor conviction for failing to provide necessary information to the commissioner of the revenue so his tax liability could be assessed.

Two civil appeals are pending related to zoning violations due to the condition of the Gavis home and the continued presence of a bucket truck beside it.

In March, his appeal of a zoning violation citation for improperly operating his home-based business, Marty’s Used Cars, as a wholesale enterprise was dismissed in Winchester Circuit Court.

Attending the meeting at Rouss City Hall were Acting Chairman Charles Worthington Jr., Christopher A. Molden and Richard Ridgell.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com