Heritage House owner in Court - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Heritage House owner in Court

The old hotel has been an eyesore for years The old hotel has been an eyesore for years
Marvin Baptiste was supposed to present a plan of attack for moving forward with renovations at the Heritage House Hotel, but showed up practically empty handed Marvin Baptiste was supposed to present a plan of attack for moving forward with renovations at the Heritage House Hotel, but showed up practically empty handed

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

June 26, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The owner of a blighted downtown property has his day in court. Marvin Baptiste bought the old Heritage House Hotel in Downtown Albany about two years ago. He ran into problems when asbestos was found in the building. Now, He's being forced to come up with a comprehensive plan to develop the property, or the city will take over.

Marvin Baptiste has one more chance. Thursday, in a hearing before municipal court Judge Willie Weaver, he was supposed to present a plan of attack for moving forward with renovations at the Heritage House Hotel on Oglethorpe Boulevard. But showed up practically empty handed.

Code Enforcement Director Mike Tilson said, "If Mr. Baptiste does not get a construction crew there within the next couple of months, we will be discussing, not just with Mr. Baptiste, but the other lien holders whether this building is going to be demolished or renovated."

But right now, the ball is in Baptiste's court. Judge Weaver gave him 60 days to develop a plan that includes evidence of funding for the project, a time period for construction and cost estimates. If he doesn't, the city will move forward to get rid of the eyesore. Attorney Nathan Davis said, "I will ask the city for permission to proceed to bring abatement action."

In the immediate future, Baptiste must meet with code enforcement about securing the property. Mr. Baptiste says he believes this fence can keep vagrants out, but Code Enforcers disagree, saying anyone can easily climb it and then get inside the property, which no longer has doors or windows securing it.  Tilson said,  "If they get in the building and get upstairs there are no railings to prevent them from hurting or killing themselves."

Baptiste is facing foreclosure on the property, but told the judge he can get funding to resume work soon.

Baptiste will appear in court next month for an update and must have his final plan in place by August 28th. Other commercial property owners should also be on the lookout. City commissioners recently adopted new rules that will allow them to prosecute property owners not in compliance more easily.

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