Local News

Oakwood residents face off over controversial modern house

Posted August 25, 2014 2:38 p.m. EDT
Updated August 26, 2014 4:35 p.m. EDT

— The fight over a home under construction in Raleigh's historic Oakwood neighborhood went to court Monday, where a judge heard arguments on whether construction should be halted altogether or allowed to continue.

Marsha Gordon and Louis Cherry were granted necessary permits to build the contemporary house at 516 Euclid St., including a certificate of appropriateness from the Raleigh Historic Development Commission.

Construction on the house irked neighbors, who argued that the house didn't fit with the character of Oakwood, and they filed a complaint over it. That led the city's Board of Adjustment to reverse the certificate, which suspended construction on the home.

City officials, along with Gordon and Cherry, in March appealed the Board of Adjustment decision to Superior Court.

Nick Fountain, an attorney for the couple, argued Monday that the Board of Adjustment isn't supposed to dictate design but that board members "bungled" the case because they aren't used to handling administrative appeals.

Fountain also maintained that Oakwood isn't a restaurant with a menu of acceptable architectural choices. Various homes in the neighborhood were built in the 1930s, 1950s and 1980s in styles to match their eras, he said.

"Oakwood is a collage," he said. "It isn't frozen in time the way (Colonial) Williamsburg is."

But Andy Pettesch, an attorney for Gail Wiesner, who lives across the street from the home, said the home would devalue Wiesner's property. Also, he said, she finds the home's architecture jarring and would have to face it every day.

"Her viewing vista is going to be dominated by this incongruous two-story home," Pettesch said.

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.

Superior Court Judge Elaine Bushfan halted arguments after more than two hours, and lawyers plan to return Tuesday to resume the case.