Oakwood homeowners clash over contemporary house
Posted March 5, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Joy Weeber lives in her dream home.
Weeber, who moved to Raleigh’s historic Oakwood neighborhood nearly two decades ago, was drawn to the district’s charm and architecture.
“I wanted to live in a neighborhood where I didn’t have to live near modern houses,” Weeber said. “They have their own place, but not in this neighborhood.”
Around the corner, Marsha Gordon’s vision for her own dream home is taking shape, leading her to build a more modern foundation on the historic area.
“This is absolutely our dream house,” Gordon said. “We chose to build it in this neighborhood. We love Oakwood.”
But three months after the foundation was poured, Raleigh’s Board of Adjustment voted to reverse the certificate of appropriateness Gordon received from the Raleigh Historic Development Commission, which might halt construction on the home.
“We’re being told we may have to stop construction on our house,” Gordon said. “This just fails the common sense test.”
The Raleigh Historic Development Commission’s building guidelines for historic areas allow new construction if plans reflect an “understanding of and a compatibility with the distinctive character of the district setting and buildings.”
The guidelines also say new construction in historic neighborhoods can enhance the district.
Gordon said the city-issued permits prove she and her husband did everything right.
“When you give someone a building permit, it is absolutely necessary they can have faith in the value of that permit,” Gordon said.
But Weeber and other residents say the modern home is not compatible with Oakwood’s historic character.
“There’s a lot of people in the neighborhood who moved here because we knew it was protected,” Weeber said. “Just knock out some cement slabs and haul it off on the back of the truck … you don’t have to knock it down.”
Gordon said the definitions of modern and historic are not set in stone.
“Every home that’s ever been built in this neighborhood has been contemporary and modern when it was built,” she said. “You cannot build a historic house – that’s impossible.”
If the Board of Adjustment’s ruling stands, Gordon will have to stop work on the house, and the decision could end up in court.
Gordon and her husband might eventually have to tear the house down.
“It completely ruins us financially,” Gordon said. “Every single dollar we have is in this home.”