Town council votes to abandon repairs on Holly Plaza apartments, cites cost of repair

Town council votes to abandon repairs on Holly Plaza apartments, cites cost of repair
Published: Nov. 21, 2023 at 3:29 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2023 at 3:47 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HOLLY RIDGE, N.C. (WECT) - The Holly Ridge Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to abandon repairs on the Holly Plaza apartments due to the cost of repair.

The apartments are suffering from a mold crisis. Tenants were moved to a hotel in Jacksonville in October so the town could conduct mold testing.

Town Manager Heather Reynolds told council members that 42 of the 44 homes in the Holly Plaza complex had mold in their HVAC systems. Reynolds said the cost of new HVAC equipment and necessary roof repairs would be more than $1 million. This does not include the cost of mold remediation. Reynolds said the tax value of the property is $965,508.

A gasp fell over the crowd and many burst into tears when Reynolds announced the apartments were condemned and the council voted to abandon any future work on the property, leaving residents without a home for the holidays.

“It’s just terrible. It’s the worst outcome that we could have gotten,” said Holly Plaza Resident Amanda Mizzelle.

Holly Plaza is a low-income public rental housing complex that is managed by the town and home to over 40 families.

Mizzelle said she has lived at Holly Plaza for much of her life and first noticed mold in her apartment in 2019. She says her calls to Pendergraph, the company that was contracted with Holly Ridge to manage the complex, often went unanswered. The town terminated its contract with Pendergraph at Tuesday’s meeting

“I had mushrooms growing out of my wall my kitchen in 2019,” Mizzelle said. “And this past year, I had water filling up my kitchen sink light fixture.”

The town called an emergency meeting on Oct. 27 to address the mold crisis and approved a plan to move the tenants to a hotel in Jacksonville for 30 days. In that time, the town began conducting extensive mold testing and moved the 98 tenants into a hotel in Jacksonville.

The council voted to extend those hotel stays until Jan. 1. After that, however, residents will be on their own.

“I don’t drive and I take care of my mother and she lives with me,” said Mizzelle. “My kids live ten minutes away. My dad, my brother, there was always a convenience, they could stop by anytime they want. But now, I don’t know where I’m going to go.”

Mayor Jeff Wenzel says there was nothing the town could have done to address the issue earlier. He says abandoning the property was the only option.

“Given the numbers that were presented to us and what it would cost to repair and the length of time that it would take, it was just insurmountable for us,” said Wenzel. “And there really was no other decision that could be made that is fiscally responsible for the size town that we have.”

Other council members appeared upset as they voted to abandon the property. Wenzel says the town still owes $750,000 on the complex.

“This is probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” said Councilman Dexter Sholar, fighting back tears.

Wenzel and his fellow council members also voted to offer incentives for residents who agree to avoid taking any further legal action against the town. These incentives would include lease payouts depending on the size of the resident’s apartment.

“We’re poor people and we’re not worth it to nobody,” Mizzelle said.

Mizzelle says she expected today’s vote to happen, but adds that it doesn’t help the feeling of losing a family.

“I don’t know where we go from here, we are all like family,” said Mizzelle. “And that’s one of the hardest parts because nobody knows where they’re going to go or end up. We don’t know if we’ll ever keep in touch with each other.”