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Aberdeen officials give woman time to make new plan for 'historic' home

Aberdeen city officials say they are giving Janice Grant another chance to fix up her family's dilapidated home, which she says has historic value.

A court order staying the demolition of the boarded-up home, in the 400 block of Edmund Street, was set to expire Thursday. Judge William Carr issued it March 25 just as a bulldozer showed up to tear the building down.

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But on Wednesday, Aberdeen City Manager Doug Miller said the city has no immediate plans to demolish the 84-year-old home and he wants to keep working with Grant and her lawyer.

The home gained a measure of prominence when Grant's aunt fed and cared for local homeless people. It has also played host to the NAACP during the Civil Rights struggle and was visited by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, according to Grant.

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Miller said the city will give Grant "several weeks" to determine how to address the city's concerns about the stability of the building.

"We believe it's in danger of collapse. We have to see it brought up to the state that is not a danger of collapse," he said. "Then it has to be brought up to code."

He said the city's lawyer had spoken with Grant's lawyers about the new timeline.

"I am hoping that now that she has an attorney involved that understands the city's point of view, we will progress a little further on this," Miller said.

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Aisha Braveboy, who represents Grant, however, said she knew of no timelines set by the city and would not give an estimate of how long any rehabilitation might take.

"I will say there is no immediate threat of demolition, and the interest of both Ms. Grant and, I guess, the city itself, is ensuring the structures [pose] no immediate threat," she said.

She expects to have results from an assessment on the property within the next few weeks.

"It will tell us whether or not the structure itself is stable. That is the biggest issue," Braveboy said. "Those questions will be answered in short order."

"Those results will be provided to all the parties, and we believe we will work something out," she said.

Janice and Woodrow Grant's battle with the city over the home dates at least to 2004, when the city first condemned the property.

Both sides have gone back and forth since then. In November 2013, the city's Unsafe Building Committee deemed the house to be in violation of city code and the Grants were given until March 16 to make significant improvements.

On March 25, the city finally sent a bulldozer to demolish the house, prompting Grant to rally supporters and make a last-ditch effort to halt the destruction.

Grant had previously said she wanted to see it become a home for homeless female veterans. She has been working with the Historical Society of Harford County in an attempt to have the house recognized as historically significant.

Miller said he is fully supportive of Grant's vision for the home but he believes accomplishing it "is not an inexpensive item."

"It definitely benefits everyone if it could be shored up," he said. "Right now, it's just a shell – no floors, no stairs, no plumbing."

Braveboy said the verdict is still out on that.

She is also still confident the saga of Grant's house will see a happy ending.

"We believe we can move forward, and we are looking forward to moving forward in a cooperative manner with the city," she said.

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