Hobson homeowners organize

Published 10:35 pm Thursday, December 17, 2009

The village of Hobson finally has a civic league to call its own.

The Hobson Civic League met for the second time Thursday night — the first time was more than a year ago. A group of about 50 residents of the historic village and the surrounding area gathered at Macedonia Baptist Church to talk about code enforcement, the effect of recent efforts to have the village listed on historical registers and plans to demolish and rebuild some of the community’s more dilapidated homes.

“It’s time we decide our own fate,” said Tim Holland, a leader of the newly organized group.

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Residents of the small community off Crittenden Road realized the need to organize a civic league when they saw the plight of a few homeowners who wanted to rebuild their houses with indoor plumbing.

Five homeowners in the area who did not have working bathrooms in their homes — four of whom didn’t have bathrooms at all — recently received low-interest loans from the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project to demolish and rebuild their homes with reliable indoor plumbing.

The project helps rural communities to upgrade their water and wastewater systems through grants and loans to rehabilitate housing and build water and wastewater infrastructure.

The project has been held up, however, by miscommunications between community members, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and other organizations. Julie Langan, director of the Division of Resource Services and Review with the historic resources department, came to the meeting to help clear up the confusion.

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources recently did a Multiple Property Documentation Form on the village of Hobson. The document, essentially a research paper on a group of properties with a common theme, does not list the properties on any landmark or historic registers, but serves as a basis for evaluating the eligibility of the properties for the register.

Of the five homes that received loans from the community assistance project, only one was deemed eligible to be listed on the register, and it has already been torn down to prepare for its reconstruction.

Certain residents in the community believed the documentation done by the historic resources department would prevent the homes from being torn down, but Langan said that is not the case — no state or federal historic designation can dictate what an owner can or cannot do with his property.

A listing on the register — which Hobson does not have — simply “sends a message that this is a property you should try to hang on to if you can,” Langan said.

Now that the historic resources department’s research of the properties is nearly completed, the contractors who have been hired to demolish and rebuild the homes can move forward, Langan said. The announcement was met with cheers and applause in the civic league meeting.

About a dozen more homes in the village were unable to get the grants, because the money ran out, Holland said. Those homeowners can reapply next year and will be able to lean on the new civic league for help.

Holland, one of the leaders of the group, said after the meeting he was pleased with the turnout. The group hopes to meet at least once a month until the organization gets off the ground.

“We need everybody’s participation,” said John Thrower, another leader of the group. “No one person can beat us now.”