Town gives owner ultimatum: repair unsafe building or demolish it

tbarton@islandpacket.comFebruary 28, 2012 

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A Hilton Head Island town board gave a Charleston woman an ultimatum Tuesday: clean up her dilapidated building at 15 Park Lane or have it demolished.

The town's Construction Board of Adjustment & Appeals voted unanimously Tuesday to give Lu-Ying Tu Li 90 days beginning March 1 to either make the building safe or tear it down.

Should she receive permits from the town to make needed repairs, she'd be granted an additional 30 days to fix what town building inspectors say is an unsafe structure that's become a public nuisance.

Town building official Bob Klein showed photos during the public hearing that revealed holes in the roof, overgrown vegetation, drywall that's fallen from the ceiling, broken windows, mold and rotted wood.

Rodents and vandals have also infiltrated the building, creating an unsanitary, deficient "eyesore" that poses public health and fire hazards, Klein said.

"It's very unsightly and has been going on for years," said Joe Kopf, a member of the board of directors of the Park Lane Hotel located across the street from the building. "It is in the best interest of Hilton Head Island residents, the tourism industry and (surrounding island businesses) to demolish it."

Li -- whose name the town and Beaufort County property records list as Li Lu Ting Tu -- bought the 9,200-square-foot building that was once the Pasta Garden in 2007 for about $1.6 million from Carolina First Bank.

She said Tuesday by phone she bought it with the hope of converting it to a Japanese restaurant, but was unable to because of restrictions under the town's land management ordinance.

"It was very complicated, and after that the economy turned and I lost money and could no longer meet payments on the building," Li said. She did not attend the hearing Tuesday.

She said the building has sat vacant for about four years -- with no apparent maintenance, according to the town -- despite efforts to sell the property.

According to the town, two attempts were made to buy the property for about $900,000, but were rejected by Li and Carolina First Bank.

"I knew this was coming and there's nothing I can do. I have no money," Li said. She also said her home had been foreclosed on.

Li said the Park Lane property is also heading to foreclosure.

The board said it chose a 90 day period to allow time for the bank or potential purchaser to either make repairs or demolish the building.

"It's been sitting there for some time and we don't want it to sit any longer," said town board member Ray Carlton.

If nothing is done after 90 days, the town has the right to repair the building to safe conditions or demolish at an estimated cost of $50,000, said town staff attorney Brian Hulbert. Should it do so, the town would place a lien against the property to recoup its cost.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead

Related Content:

Town of Hilton Head Island Construction Board of Adjustment & Appeals Feb. 28 meeting packet

Beaufort County property records

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