Stanly commissioners approve demolition order for mobile home park

ALBEMARLE — At its Oct. 2 meeting, the Stanly County Board of Commissioners voted to demolish and remove six mobile homes at 30545 Tom Road in Albemarle. County code enforcement officials had declared the homes unfit for human habitation. 

Zoning Code Enforcement Officer Tim Swaringen explained to the Commissioners that the rental units, owned by local landlord Richard Huneycutt, do not meet minimum housing requirements set by Stanly County’s Minimum Housing and High Grass Standards Ordinance. 

“We don’t get to this point in code enforcement very often, but unfortunately, we find ourselves there tonight,” Swaringen said. Code enforcement staff began investigating the property in February before ordering the homes vacated in April. 

“We’ve received complaints concerning the conditions of the manufactured homes at the Huneycutt Mobile Home Park,” said Swaringen. “We gave Mr. Huneycutt 90 days to either correct the violations or to demolish and remove those mobile homes. That deadline was July 12.” 

As no progress has been made, he continued, the next step is for the commissioners to order the demolition and removal of the units. 

Multiple tenants living at the Tom Road properties spoke to the commissioners, explaining their living situations and frustrations with the landlord’s ongoing refusal to fix issues. One tenant stated that a portion of her roof had collapsed from prolonged mold and water damage, while another linked breathing issues to unclean air in the buildings. 

Paperwork filed by Swaringen claimed numerous code violations, including a lack of an approved, permanent source of heat; faulty electrical wiring and plumbing; structural decay; and unsanitary conditions throughout the premises.  

Though the order to vacate was issued in April, many residents claimed that Huneycutt had not been forthright about the dire status of their rentals and that more time was needed to move to a new location. 

Vice Chairman Mike Barbee said he was not in favor of Mr. Huneycutt getting by, but noted the difficulty for people who can’t afford to move and the waiting lists everywhere. “It’ll probably be three months before these people can find another place. I don’t like what Mr. Huneycutt has done. I think he needs to straighten things up, and we need to condemn his place, but I can’t look at these people and run them out of their homes either.”  

The board was tasked with forming a compromise in an emotionally charged setting, as residents admitted they didn’t know where they would live. Commissioner Peter Asciutto said, “I’ve been a commissioner for a long time, but this is a situation that I don’t think we’ve dealt with.” 

Citing the need to remove unsafe housing while also expressing a desire to help the current tenants, the commissioners ultimately voted to proceed with the demolition process, to give tenants about four months, until Jan. 31, 2024, to vacate. After that, an eviction process will begin with the threat of criminal penalties for violations  

The board is set to hold its next regular meeting Oct. 16 in the Gene McIntyre Meeting Room at Stanly Commons.