Richmond County Magistrate Judge H. Scott Allen gave the owner, Wes Sims, 60 days to begin restorations on the 215-year-old Federal-style building Tuesday, nine months after the court declared the property a nuisance.
Sims could have faced a maximum of 60 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, possible demolition of the house and loss of ownership to a private organization, such as Historic Augusta, which deemed the property endangered in 2012 for it to restore the home.
Allen said, however, that Sims and the county “will work a little longer” on the project before a jury trial could be held to decide the fate of the Sand Bar Ferry Road house, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
“I would prefer not to (order demolition),” Allen said. “I would not be well-received in the community.”
Augusta-Richmond County planners said they “would like to hope” that Sims, who was present during Tuesday’s hearing, has a genuine interest in restoring the structure, but they did not express much confidence in the Birmingham, Ala., investor.
Both the three-story house’s chimney and the adjoining wall have remained unrepaired since collapsing in August 2011.
Sims said the birth of his child two weeks ago and the city’s request that an independent contractor be hired to restore the house has delayed construction.
“We have done everything we can without permits,” Sims, who originally planned to fix the Goodale House himself, told Allen.
After the hearing, Sims said he has hired a new structural engineer to create stamped drawings and pull permits to start construction. He added that he has spent the past week removing finishes, exposing brickwork and securing the premises for the engineer to conduct a “beam-to-beam analysis” on the home.
“I’m definitely pleased with the outcome,” Sims said of the hearing. “It’s a big project, and I need more time. I’ve got a contractor on board that I trust. We’ll see how it goes.”
Sims has said he purchased the family home of Wade Hampton III, a Confederate general and South Carolina governor, in 2009 for less than $20,000. He has said that he intends to restore it, possibly transforming it into a bed-and-breakfast with some type of historical aspect.
“I’m in love with the house. It’s one of a kind,” he said.
After the hearing, Erick Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta, offered the nonprofit’s help to restore the building. The organization has been trying to acquire the house to ensure it’s preserved, but Sims said its offers have been too low.
Allen said that either way, the building’s problems must be addressed.
“I will never fathom what possessed you to buy the property,” the judge said. “But as long as you own it, you will do what the law says.”