Photo by Chris Cooper Several loads of gravel were dumped on a vacant lot on the corner of 4th and Main Streets in Russellville the beginning of the week.

Photo by Chris Cooper

Several loads of gravel were dumped on a vacant lot on the corner of 4th and Main Streets in Russellville the beginning of the week.

Work began on the corner of 4th and Main streets in Russellville this week where a luxury hotel is promised to be constructed by property owner Deborah Hirsch. Unfortunately, the work didn't have anything to do with building anything but instead filling in a hole left for too long.

This is the first movement on the corner since November of 2018 when Hirsch held a blessing of the ground ceremony. Actual demolition on the corner, which once held historic structures dating back to 1879, began Oct. 2017, which according to the city council, has been ample time to see some sort of progress.

The council recently pushed to see some sort of official plan of action for the project by Hirsch finding her to be in violation of a demolition permit issued to her by the city. The body agreed to draft a letter during a council meeting in July giving her 30 days to provide a copy of a signed construction contract and proof that said the contract has been submitted to the appropriate offices at the state level to procure the necessary building permits to proceed.

The letter further stated that if Hirsch could not or would not comply, she would have to fill in the hole left on the square. Without notice, according to Mayor Mark Stratton, that is exactly what she did earlier in the week.

"We were not contacted by Hirsch or her attorney before the filling work began," said Stratton adding the city will continue to hold Hirsch to the permit requirements.

According to the city's demolition permit application- the demolition of any building is not considered complete until the lot is in a serviceable or building condition. On lots where fill is required, the lot must be filled to a level condition and sown with grass and rye or the lot may be overlaid with gravel as a parking lot. The demolition contractor shall be granted one day for each 500 square feet of building space in which to start and finish the completed demolition of each building once the demolition begins. Should the time limit expire, the demolition contractor and the property owner shall incur a fine of $100 per day for each day past the proposed timeline and shall be jointly and severally liable for the same.

Hirsch is the owner-operator of Ariella Bistro and Bar located just off the square. When she moved to Russellville in 2005, she began acquiring property downtown and now owns numerous lots around the square.

Hirsch came to the city of Russellville in July 2017 asking the council to amend an ordinance, which they did, to allow for taller structures to be built on the square. At that time, Hirsch's plans included building two hotels, one to be five stories and the other six stories.