Black house blighted

By Anna Oakes (

Article Published: Nov. 1, 2012 | Modified: Nov. 1, 2012
Black house blighted

This home on Howard’s Knob Road on a peak overlooking Boone has been condemned and ordered to be repaired or demolished by the town of Boone.

Photo by Anna Oakes

A prominent home on Howard’s Knob, visible from most points in downtown Boone, has been deemed a blighted property and condemned by the town of Boone.

According to Boone Town Council meeting minutes, a town building inspector posted a notice of condemnation at the home, located at 448 Howard’s Knob Road, in July. The five-bedroom, four-bathroom house is painted black and is distinguishable by a bright red circle on the façade overlooking Boone.

The property is located within the town of Boone’s area of extraterritorial jurisdiction. Under state law, the town has condemnation authority over properties located within the town of Boone and its ETJ.

The town sent letters to owner Bank of America dated July 25 and 26 noting the structure appeared to be “dangerous to life” due to its blighted, dilapidated, damaged and dangerous conditions; that it appeared to contribute to blight, vagrancy, fire and safety hazards; and that it constituted a public nuisance, in violation of the town code and state law, according to the minutes.

The July 25 letter imposed fines of $200 per day on the owner, the bank. The inspector issued an Order to Take Corrective Action on Aug. 6 requiring the owner to secure the structure from unlawful entry within seven days and to repair or demolish the structure within 60 days.

An attorney for the bank attended an Aug. 10 hearing on the code violations, the minutes stated, but “the owner has ignored the building inspector’s order and has taken no sufficient action to either secure the structure from unlawful entry or to repair or demolish the structure,” the minutes said.

Following a closed session last month, the Boone Town Council adopted an ordinance threatening Bank of America with legal action if the structure was not repaired or demolished and if accrued penalties were not paid by Oct. 6. As of Sept. 20, fines had accrued to a total of $11,600.

The town has not indicated if the bank responded to the ordinance by Oct. 6. The council was slated to “consider and give instruction concerning the handling of legal proceedings against Bank of America” in closed session Oct. 18.

Richard Lane Stahl, a retired Appalachian State University education professor, built the home in 1990, according to documents filed with the Watauga County Record of Deeds office. The property was valued at $923,300 in Watauga County’s last revaluation in 2006.

According to an April 8, 2005, article in the Watauga Democrat, Stahl, then 60, was sentenced in 2005 to 20 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $5 million in forfeiture and restitution after being convicted of money laundering.

U.S. District Court Judge Lacy Thornburg ordered in December 2008 that Stahl’s interest in the Howard’s Knob property be forfeited to the U.S. government for disposition, according to court documents.

The U.S. government then transferred title of the property to lienholder Bank of America, which had foreclosed on the property, via a nonwarranty deed in November 2011.

Watauga County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Dee Dee Rominger said the department has received two reports of criminal activity at the property in the past year. In August 2011, the Sheriff’s Office received a report of damage to the property. In August of this year, a person at the property was cited with simple possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, she said.

Boone town manager Greg Young said he was “not at liberty” to speak about the matter.

“The foreclosure on this property has just recently been completed,” a spokesperson from Bank of America said. “Now that the property is in the bank’s possession, we will ask our property preservation vendor to schedule an inspection, and orders will be placed to secure the property and do routine cleanup and maintenance.”

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