Local News

Oakwood home spurs discussion over Raleigh's historic districts

Posted September 22, 2014 11:23 p.m. EDT
Updated September 22, 2014 11:28 p.m. EDT

— It was the pink elephant in the room that brought over 100 people to a meeting at the Raleigh Convention Center Monday night to discuss the city’s historic preservation guidelines.

But they were asked not to talk about it.

You know, the home that divided a historic downtown Raleigh neighborhood.

“There is a conversation going on in our community right now about do the guidelines do what they are intended to do in terms of preserving historic districts, but also allowing there to be diversity and flexibility,” said Mary Dillon, who lives in the Historic Oakwood neighborhood.

The legal battle over the home spurred a number of questions that were asked at Monday’s meeting, including what community values should be represented in historic preservation guidelines, do the current guidelines reflect those values and what would historic neighborhoods look like if drastic changes are made.

“Our concern is that with those changes, you're going to see a great watering down of the classic look across the neighborhood or the feel of the neighborhood,” said Mary Iverson with the Oak City Preservation Alliance.

Some believe change may be good for historic neighborhoods.

“Many residents of Historic Oakwood and other historic districts believe that historic structures should be protected, but that these neighborhoods should not be frozen in time,” read a statement signed by over 80 Oakwood residents in support of the home. “They believe that contemporary infill, thoughtfully regulated by the Raleigh Historic Development Commission (RHDC), can be compatible with the historic character of our local historic neighborhoods.”

Most people at Monday’s meeting agreed that historic neighborhoods add value to a community, but the answer they wanted was what defines ‘historic.’ Notes from the meeting will be used to make recommendations to the RHDC and Raleigh City Council.

“I think there are passions on both sides of the issue and that's great because I think at the core of it, everybody feels very proud of their neighborhood and strong about it,” Dillon, the Oakwood resident, said.

Passions for and against the home played out in city meetings and in court as neighbors disputed over whether an Oakwood residence's modern design clashed with the neighborhood’s character.

The home’s owners, Marsha Gordon and Louis Cherry, were granted the necessary permits to build the contemporary home at 516 Euclid St., including a certificate of appropriateness from the RHDC.

Neighbors against the home filed a complaint, which led the city's Board of Adjustment to reverse the certificate, thus suspending construction on the home.

City officials, along with Gordon and Cherry, appealed the Board of Adjustment decision to Superior Court. A judge ruled in their favor earlier this month.