Future of Oakwood House in Limbo

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A prominent Raleigh architect could be forced to tear down his new, modernist home in Oakwood.

Louis Cherry began building his new home at 516 Euclid St. in December, three months after receiving a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Raleigh Historic Development Commission.

Last week, the Board of Adjustment voted 3 to 2 to reverse that decision in response to neighbor Gail Weisner’s appeal, filed in October. Discussion about the house has also prompted a review of Raleigh Historic Development Commission guidelines.

The quasi-judicial board will make those findings official at its next meeting on March 10.

A resident has requested that Councilors deny a Certificate of Appropriateness for this project at 516 Euclid St. in the Oakwood neighborhood

Karen Tam / Raleigh Public Record

A resident has requested that Councilors deny a Certificate of Appropriateness for this project at 516 Euclid St. in the Oakwood neighborhood

Cherry, whose home is still under construction, can legally continue to work on the house until the Board of Adjustment makes its findings official next month. Once the board certifies its findings, however, construction must stop.

Cherry has the option to appeal the board’s decision to the Wake County Superior Court.

City Attorney Thomas McCormick told the Record if Cherry doesn’t file an appeal, he will be required to bring the house into compliance with a new Certificate of Appropriateness. If that can’t be done, the house will need to be torn down.

McCormick said that Cherry was notified of the appeal, but continued with construction at his own risk.

Council Involvement
Legally, the City Council can’t overturn a decision made by the Board of Adjustment. It can file its own appeal with the superior court, which McCormick said the city won’t do.

 

During Tuesday’s meeting, McCormick recommended that Councilors wait until after the March Board of Adjustment meeting before having a conversation about the case.

“At that point we can review those [findings] to see if there is anything particularly relevant to the RHDC’s performance that might require city intervention,” McCormick told Councilors.

At the time of publication, Cherry did not respond to the Record’s interview request.

9 thoughts on “Future of Oakwood House in Limbo

  1. Really? All of a sudden the City cares about the type and size of a new house being built within the city limits? When did this happen? What about all of the hideous McMansions being built everywhere next to a house that is one quarter of it’s size? I guess that it is OK to ruin the character of some established neighborhoods but not others within the city limits.

  2. Historic Districts have different rules. In other neighborhoods, there normally isn’t a interest more restrictive rules or zoning overlays until someone comes and builds a house someone else doesn’t like. Even then, the neighborhood has to (1) come together and (2) agree on what those limits will be. A lot of people don’t like being told what they can and can’t do to their house, or telling others.

  3. Sounds like a terribly archaic process. How is it that the Raleigh Historic Development Commission can approve it, and yet allow for neighbors to complain *after* construction has already begun? Why not make it either A) people can’t complain if the RHDC approves it or B) people can only complain until the RHDC approves it? If the complaint of one neighbor is enough to derail this project, then that’s a waste of resources.

    I understand that people want to maintain the character of their neighborhoods (or whatever) but people should still be able to do what they want on their own private property. It’d be interesting to find out why Gail Weisner doesn’t want this house to be built.

  4. Jay: The neighbor did not complain after construction was started. She filed the appeal in October. Cherry chose not to wait to see what the result would be and started construction in December. He rolled the dice and might have lost. It is generally not a good idea to start a huge investment on the assumption a legal case will go your way, unless you have certain knowledge that it will.

  5. I think that Louis Cherry should sue the City of Raleigh, the RHDC and the Board of Adjustment for damages. He followed all of the rules in place at the time and was given permission to start construction. Too bad if a neighbor does not like the rules; rules should not be able to be rescinded after the fact. In my opinion, if the change in rules sticks, then his house should be grand-fathered. Contrary to Myron Pitts’ comment, Cherry did not roll the dice – he had all of his permits in hand. I agree totally with Jay’s comment.

  6. Oakwood is a wonderful neighborhood. My brother renovated the old school house on N. East St. back in late 80’s and so I feel a certain connection. However, I fully support Mr. Cherry’s house project and Myrick Howard’s comments on this topic. Oakwood is NOT a subdivision, it has diverse styles spanning many decades. I was under the impression that when Oakwood was made a historic district, it was to protect the existing homes from demolition…from being erased from history. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder (and certainly there are some pretty ugly Victorians out there), I think that Mr. Cherry’s design is superb and will add a great level of visual interest to Euclid St. As Mr. Howard stated, Oakwood shouldn’t be pickled…The Cherry house lends a feeling of vibrancy, in my opinion.

  7. Well, I just discovered that the Weisners’ house is a copycat Victorian built in 2008. Oakwood is NOT a Victorian subdivision and should not be promoted as such. When I read she was accusing Mr. Cherry of building his house to “stand out” for promotional purposes, I had to wonder what her motivations are when it comes to selling homes in the neighborhood.

  8. I hate to confuse anyone with the facts, but peruse the Board of Adjustment minutes from December 9, 2013 and you will see that Walt Fulcher told Mr. Cherry when he was in the process of APPLYING for the building permits that he was building at his own risk as there was an appeal in process. Another case in Oakwood had a similar appeal process going, although for a different reason, a few years ago. That owner did not start building until everything was settled. The city usually does not deny permits in a case like this because the builder might prevail. Therefore, they leave it up to the builder’s common sense. Mr. Cherry, who should have know better anyway, as he is a professional, built at full tilt in spite of SEVERAL warnings from the city.

    The historic districts were designated in part to save significant buildings, in part to preserve a slice of history of a way of life for future generations. Otherwise they could just designate the older buildings individually! The restrictions are just as binding as any covenants in any suburban neighborhood. New buildings are not prohibited, but are not to take away from or distract from the significant buildings. (Research John Sandor and Stephen Semes and see updated National Park Service brochures on preservation)

    Oakwood has been a VERY vibrant neighborhood for years and does not need a copy-cat modernist building to make it any more so. (Modernist style began in the early 1900’s, it just is not appropriate for a Victorian/Craftsman district.)

    There are more modernist homes in the Triangle than any other city except LA and Chicago, yet it is still one of the least popular home styles ever, per the modernist homes own website.

    The historic modernist homes deserve their OWN historic designations and districts. Plenty of lots to build modernist reproductions in a neighborhood other than where existing residents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying and restoring homes believing they and the ambience of their community were protected.

    In addition, Oakwood is enjoyed by thousands of Raleigh residents and tourists from outside the neighborhood each year, in a city with precious few tourist attractions. It is not the “Example of Fine Architecture District”. It is a HISTORIC district with a specific period of significance. That yesteryear charm is what they come to see.

  9. The city of a Raleigh should not be in the business of issuing permits and then warning people that they construct at their own risk. The City Attorney is at fault here. The man needs to be fired,