Our View: Definitive vote

Posted: July 11, 2013

All things being equal, we agree with Mayor Liz Minor: We would like to see the Aulick-Gavis House, the lone remaining vestige of original Second Empire construction in Winchester, saved for posterity.

But, sadly, all things are not equal, and have not been at least since March when a section of the north wall at the South Braddock Street residence collapsed — and perhaps not since 1984 when fire destroyed a part of the structure. Damages sustained as a result of that blaze have yet to be fully repaired. Thus, what we’ve witnessed over the years is nothing less than “demolition by neglect.”

Nonetheless, City Council took an extraordinary step Tuesday night when it voted 8-1 — Mrs. Minor’s being the lone dissenting vote — to deem the home a public nuisance, thus clearing the way for its partial or total demolition. The structure, after all, remains an occupied dwelling, the longtime home of Martin and Claudette Gavis.

Still, in a way, council’s hand was forced on this issue — at least since the collapse of that portion of the wall earlier this year. Not only has Mr. Gavis failed to fully repair the damaged structure, but he’s also resisted fines levied relative to the structure’s maintenance, or lack thereof. As such, the home is falling around him. It’s nothing short of a hazard due to the precarious condition of the north wall and roof.

If a silver lining can be found in Tuesday’s definitive vote, it is this: Perhaps now either Mr. Gavis and/or the city’s active preservation community will step forward and address ways requisite to saving the home.

As City Attorney Tony Williams noted, demolition will not take place “overnight.” Not only must the city prove its case in court that demolition is warranted, but engineers must also determine how best to abate the blight.