Frozen construction project blights neighborhood - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Frozen construction project blights neighborhood

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January 9, 2008

Albany -  For about two years, folks who live in the Eugemar neighborhood in Albany have stared at an incomplete building, wondering what exactly it is, and when it will be finished.

The city issued a stop work order when it was discovered the permit it issued for a house was actually being used to build a music school. Since then, no work has been done on the structure, which may have to come down.

Every day during lunch, Lacey Huggins and her co-workers take a brisk walk through the Eugemar neighborhood. And everyday she walks past a half-finished hulk. "Well, we kind of wonder what it is," she says.

It was supposedly a house. At least that's the permit the owners got at the time of construction to build it. But the plans were to turn it into a music school. Those plans were stopped cold when the city found out. 

"It's a residential neighborhood, so you can only build a house, a residence" said City Attorney Nathan Davis, "that particular zoning is only for residential structures."

But since the stop order was issued almost two years ago, not much has happened. So when will it? "I owe some research and a legal opinion to the city commission to answer that question," said Davis .

Davis says he plans to review the case and see if the city can take legal action against the owners under the abatement law, possibly forcing the owners to tear the structure down or move it. "If they wanted to move it to a different location, I think it would benefit the neighborhood and them. I mean, you can't run a business in a neighborhood."

As a matter of law, the owners have the first right to take corrective action, before the city does anything to the structure.

When the stop work order was issued, the property owners, who are Muslim, threatened to sue the city for religious discrimination. They have not filed suit.

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