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Fix it Up or Tear it Down: Plantation House Deemed "Dangerous Structure"

web posted August 26, 2014

EDGEFIELD   It has been well over a decade coming, but after enough complaints by citizens, the Edgefield County Building and Planning Office has been focusing on "dangerous structures" and notifying the owners to basically bring their structures up to code, or tear it down. At the top of that list is the landmark Plantation House on the corner of the town square and Penn Street.

After the owners were contacted in a February 24 letter about the condition of the building they had 30 days to respond. They did not. A packet was then sent with all of the applicable building codes, pictures of the decaying and dangerous conditions and further request for response. The registered packet was refused by the owners and now sits in a file at the Building and Planning Office that has been turned over to the Attorney for the Town of Edgefield, Jennifer Sumner, in an April 29 letter to follow up on the legal filings to force the owners into compliance.

Edgefield County Building and Planning Director Wayne Collins said that he was currently working on ten properties at this time that should have been taken care of years ago. "I inherited all of these buildings," Collins said, "and when we get complaints I go out and check and if problems are found it is my job to inform the owners."

By far the Plantation House poses the greatest threat to citizen not only because of it several structural deficiencies, roof sections, floors collapsing all the way to the basement in one section, other portions of the building showing rotting wood from rot as the interior of the building is not protected from the elements due to a large portions of the roof already collapsed, and that is only the damage that can bee seen from the outside of the building, as officials are not allowed inside, the biggest threat is its location.

Penn Street, which is a main entry point to the square from the south, borders one block along side of the dangerous building. Already there have been complains of bricks falling to the sidewalk a couple years ago, to a most recent claim a week ago of a real estate broker showing someone the property and reported glass falling out of one of the windows in the three story building and landing in the middle of the roadway of Penn Street. Due to other complaints of falling glass, Edgefield Police erected barricades to prevent people from walking up the western side of the building approaching the square.
As portions of the building continue to crumble, the falling glass is the least of the worries from the Building Office. With so little interior structure holding the building together there is little to prevent an entire wall or sections of the building to give way. If that were to happen on Penn Street as drivers line up to enter from the yield sign, just a portion of a wall falling would cause great injury if not death to anyone unfortunate enough to be below.

Below: Aerial View of sections of the collapsed roof outlined in red
Asked if that section of Penn Street  next to the Plantation House should be closed off, Building Director Collins said he believed it would be in the public's best interest, but that was not his call to make. "Once this has been turned over to the Town (of Edgefield), it's up to them to take the legal steps that are necessary to resolve all of this."

The owners of the property are listed as Plantation House LLC in Virginia. Due to the owners being listed as an LLC, it is a little harder to identify the actual owners, but not impossible.

According to information recovered so far, Edgefield Town Attorney Jennifer Sumner is filing the legal paperwork to force the issue with the owners, in court if necessary. It is unknown if the town has filed suit at this time and Freedom of Information Requests (FOIAs) are being prepared for both the county and the town to obtain copies of the files on the case, which is paid for by taxpayer money.

Edgefield Daily will continue our investigation on the Plantation House and the legal process that seems to be all but certain with the failure to get responses from the owners, one of whom is said to possibly live in Edgefield. That is unconfirmed until the layers protecting the owners under the LLC listing are peeled away.

This is not the only building under scrutiny, another building just two buildings down on the south side of the square has an entire back wall that collapsed well over 10 years ago. However, once those owners were contacted they began the process to bring the safety of the building back to sound. Whether that effort is completed or not remains to be seen, but making the effort is a step in the right direction.

Once the issue on the Plantation House is fully vetted, Edgefield Daily will move on to the remaining eight other "dangerous structures" that have been identified.

Updates on this report will be made as more information becomes available.

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