The debate over what to do with a rundown grocery store building will likely have its day in court later this month.
A Johnston County Superior Court calendar shows the matter of Katie Smith v. the Town of Clayton scheduled for the week of Nov. 10. Smith, of Sneads Ferry, owns the old Red & White store on Front Street near downtown. It’s a dilapidated building the town ruled unsafe months ago.
Clayton wants to raze the building, which needs a new roof among other repairs. Smith says she needs more time to bring it up to code.
After building inspectors ruled the structure unsafe in 2012, the Clayton Town Council gave Smith a reprieve, hoping an investor could restore the building.
Smith, who didn’t own the building during the time it became unsafe, did work with a local resident who showed interest in the project. However, the Town Council wasn’t satisfied with the progress of the renovation plans and voted in February to raze the building.
Smith appealed the town’s decision, questioning in her April court filing if town leaders followed proper legal procedures before voting to tear down the structure. She wants a judge to review the town’s records and forbid crews from beginning demolition.
The town, which has sought bids to demolish the building, says it did follow the rules.
Despite the back and forth, both sides say a deal is still possible. It might be in the form of a consent agreement, or a legally binding pact giving Smith strict deadlines for renovating the building. A judge would likely sign off on the agreement.
Smith’s attorney, Joe Howell, said his client will soon submit a new plan for how she plans to specifically repair the building.
“We are still hopeful that we can work it out and go forward with refurbishing the building,” Howell said.
Town Manager Steve Biggs said he would like to see the town enter a consent agreement to repair the building, which he called a legitimate “health and safety issue.”
Clayton’s legal fees associated with the Red & White building are not covered under the town’s retainer with Parker Poe in Raleigh. To date, the town has spent more than $10,000 in legal fees related to the case, Biggs said.
“That does not include staff time and other miscellaneous costs,” he said.
The town estimates that it would cost about $30,000 to raze the building.