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On January 19, 2021, the Petersburg Department of Neighborhood Services accompanied by engineering consultants and the City Attorney performed an inspection of the old Ramada Inn property at 380 E. Washington Street. The inspection, performed with the consent of the owner of the property, was for the purpose of identifying any potentially dangerous conditions on the property as a result of its apparent dilapidated state.
In December of 2020, a letter was issued by Petersburg Maintenance Official Bradley Shupp to Christopher A. Harrison, dba C.A. HARRISON COMPANIES, LLC and VIRGINIA HOTEL GROUP, LLC, the owners and property managers of the subject property, requesting access to the property pursuant to Section 36-105(C) of the Code of Virginia (a step required prior to obtaining an Administrative Inspection Warrant). The letter states:
“I am writing you with regard to your property located at 380 E. Washington Street, Petersburg, Virginia (the “old Ramada Hotel”). As you know, this property has a long history of Property Maintenance Issues dating back to 2013 wherein the City issued a Repair or Demolition Notice to the former owners for violations of the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code and Virginia Property Maintenance Code.
Since your acquisition of the property the conditions have continued to deteriorate. In October of 2019, you were issued a Notice of Violation and ordered to remove loose materials that could endanger life or damage property, and to properly secure the entire building and lot to prevent entry. Criminal summonses for these ongoing issues remain outstanding for you in relation to these violations.”
This letter goes on to recite a history of ongoing civil penalties relating to the dilapidated condition of the property as well.
On October 6, 2020, City Council unanimously adopted a Resolution directing the City Manager “to have Staff evaluate this property and take all necessary action to abate the conditions on said property through repair or demolition” and “express[ing] an intention to appropriate all necessary funding for said abatement as may be necessary ….” This Resolution was prompted and supported by concerns expressed by Petersburg residents including Senator Joseph Morrissey.
Harrison signed the letter and returned it with his authorization for the City to conduct its inspection without the need of obtaining an Administrative Inspection Warrant.
Petersburg Police cleared the building prior to entry of the inspection team as appearances from the exterior suggest that the building may have been vandalized and possibly occupied by persons without authorization from the owner. The inspection team thereafter proceeded with its inspection in an effort to identify issues requiring attention by the Neighborhood Services Department. Efforts to address the dilapidated conditions of the property are ongoing.
Frank Poulin, Director of Neighborhood Services, said “The new department of Neighborhood Services, with a new team in place, remains steadfast in its commitment to address unsafe properties across the city and will continue in our efforts to ensure such conditions are abated, if it is determined that such conditions exist at the old Ramada site, we will do everything we can to ensure that the violations are corrected as expeditiously allowed by law.”