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Owner appeals ARB decision to deny demolition

  • Friday, January 11, 2013

  • Updated Friday, January 11, 2013 5:04 am

In December, the City of Georgetown’s Architectural Review Board denied a request to demolish a home in the Historic District.
Now the owner, Tim Connelly, has filed an appeal in Circuit Court, hoping to have the decision reversed. He says the ARB was “controlled by erroneous findings of fact and/or abused its discretion.”
Connelly owns the home at 717 Highmarket Street. He says the house is in such disrepair, it would cost much more to restore than he could get if he repaired and resold the house. The ARB — which voted unanimously to keep the demolition from taking place — says the house is a contributor to the Historic District, a claim Connelly denies in the appeal, which was filed last week.
“Due to its extensive deterioration … and the extensive repairs … (Connelly) believes that the building has lost all historic significance and integrity,” the court document states.
The city’s Historic District Survey indicates the house was built in 1914.
ARB member Renee King, at the December meeting, said when the committee visited the house in 2011 it was in much better shape than it is currently.
However, what a house looks like on the inside is not supposed to be a factor in the decision made by the ARB, Connelly’s attorney Douglas Thornton writes in the appeal.
He quotes from the city’s Zoning Ordinance which states the ARB “shall not consider interior arrangement or interior design.” He said Connelly believes the ARB “improperly considered the interior arrangement” when the vote was taken. Although city ordinances indicate a house that contributes to the Historic District should be demolished only as a last resort, the law does give exceptions. They include:
• If it is a danger to the public.
• If it has lost its architectural and historical value.
• If it cannot contribute to the Historic District and its removal will improve the appearance of the district.
• If denial of the demolition request will result in a substantial hardship on the owner.
Connelly believes all four points apply in this case, the document states. He said he has spent $325,000 purchasing the house and property and it will cost at least $370,000 to repair the home and even then it may not meet city codes. The ARB “failed to exercise its discretion or abused its discretion” and did not “take all appropriate criteria and circumstances into consideration,” the filing claims.
Connelly is asking for pre-littigation mediation in the appeal, meaning he is hoping the issue can be resolved without going before a jury. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement through mediation, the case would be settled at trial.

By Scott Harper


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