Hays city commissioners approved city staff to complete the demolition of a former hotel on Vine Street, but said they were encouraged by progress this week at the site to work with the property owner.
Mayor Shaun Musil, Vice Mayor James Meier and Commissioner Sandy Jacobs all voted in favor of the abatement. Commissioners Henry Schwaller and Lance Jones were absent.
The vote came after backlash from the property owner, Joshua Joseph, at the commission’s July 6 work session. At that meeting, Joseph said he had not received any communication from the city before June 23 concerning the property. He said city officials “made up stories” about certified letters sent to his company, ABEL Lodging LLC in Dallas, and called city commissioners racist.
The Ambassador Hotel, 3603 Vine, ceased operation in December 2015, and Joseph decided to demolish it and redevelop the site. A permit was issued in November, but the demolition and removal of debris had stops and starts before seemingly coming to a halt in March.
Greg Wallers, a representative of the property owner, told commissioners that was due to having to deal with asbestos removal.
According to a city memo, additional asbestos allegedly was found during demolition, and by state law, the work had to stop for remediation of the material. An asbestos remediation company was hired by the contractor to perform the work in March and April.
The demolition contractor, forced to take a break, found other work in the meantime, Wallers said, which caused the delay in continuing the demolition.
“We’re currently trying to find additional contractors to get this done,” he said.
“I would say it looks like there has been some progress the last few days, and all of us up here would like to see it done where we don’t have to take action,” Mayor Shaun Musil said.
State law requires a 10-day waiting period after an abatement is approved before a city-hired contractor can begin work. If the city does follow through, the city would have to finance immediate costs, but could recoup those costs from the owner.
Wallers said crews had begun demolishing the final standing portion of the hotel late Thursday afternoon.
The city commission also approved an abatement of a vehicle at 414 E. Seventh. A vehicle in the backyard of the property has expired tags and is inoperable. Jesse Rohr, planning, inspection and enforcement superintendent, said no action has been taken to remove the vehicle despite notifications sent to the property owner and tenant.