Injunction sought to stop Hobson demolition

Published 1:11 am Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hobson resident Mary Hill shows off the cornerstone of the Masonic lodge on Crittenden Road in this March 2010 photo. She has filed an injunction against the city to cancel demolition of the structure, which has been cited for multiple code violations.

Hobson village resident Mary Hill on Friday filed a request for an injunction in Circuit Court to stop the demolition of the Masonic Lodge located at 8313 Crittenden Road.

Hill alleges in the injunction that the city plans to demolish the building, which was cited for multiple code violations, because of “New Jim Crow racism.” She also says the problems with the building have aggravated her “post traumatic slavery syndrome.”

Hill further claims she was “improperly served notices” as the previous owner of the lodge. However, she is the director of the Suffolk African American Cultural Society, Inc., which currently owns the property. It was built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1952.

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The injunction lists the city, G and I Demolition and the Virginia Utility Protection Service as defendants.

In April, a city inspector cited 12 code violations on the historic building, including failure to repair the metal roof, steps, chimney, exterior surfaces, windows and doors. It was also cited as an “unsafe structure” and “dilapidated vacant structure.”

In July, she said in an appeal to the Board of Building Code Appeals, the court directed her to take action to address the code violations. When she did so, she said, the city issued a stop work order, “thus deliberately and intentionally delaying my ability to comply with the court,” she said.

The stop work order was issued because she did not obtain a building permit for the repairs. Hill says she applied for one but was denied.

As evidence that the structure is solid, Hill offered up the fact that it withstood the winds and rain of Hurricane Irene in late August.

“I submit that I deny being in violation of the building code law when making a reasonable attempt to comply with the honorable court’s order to proceed to correct the defects identified to the court and request that the stop work order be rescinded so that we may be allowed to further secure the building,” Hill wrote.

City spokeswoman Debbie George said the city “does not comment on pending legal matters.”

The land and building, which also was once used as a school, are assessed at $9,100, according to online assessor’s records.

This isn’t the first time Hill has taken her fight against demolition to the courts. In September 2010, she was among a group of property owners to file suit in federal court against the city and the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority on the grounds that the scheduled demolitions were “discriminatory” and the homeowners had been denied access to federal funds to maintain their properties. Hill owned three of the seven properties involved in that suit at the time, including the Masonic lodge.

A judge dismissed that lawsuit in January, though Hill appealed the decision. Bulldozers razed at least three of those buildings in March.

A hearing is set for Oct. 18 at 4 p.m. in Suffolk Circuit Court.