717 Highmarket owner appeals again

A man’s request for permission to tear down a home he owns on Highmarket Street was considered by the city’s Architectural Review Board in December and was denied.

So, an appeal was filed in Circuit Court but the owner of the house at 717 Highmarket agreed to withdraw the lawsuit if the ARB would hear the matter again.

The ARB agreed and in May — by a 3-2 vote — the ARB again denied the demolition request.

Now, owner Tim Connolly has refiled his appeal hoping a jury will overturn the ARBs repeated denials.

Because Connolly dismissed the previous appeal with prejudice, the new appeal can only be based on what took place at the May meeting. Nothing from previous hearings is allowed,

In the appeal, filed July 5, Connolly states the ARB decision was “controlled by errors of fact and law, was arbitrary, (and) capricious.”

 Connolly 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 says the house is a contributor to the Historic District, a claim Connolly denies.

In the appeal, Connolly states the ARBs ruling that the house is a contributing structure is “unsupported by credible evidence and testimony in the record.”

During the May meeting, Connolly presented five witnesses, including himself. The ARB was told by the witnesses — as well as city staff — the house needs to be demolished for various reasons, including safety concerns.

The city’s building inspector, Rick Martin, told the ARB he will not issue a building permit for repairs to be made to the house because its deteriorated condition makes it dangerous for workers.

Cindy Kinder, who was the Historic Preservation Officer at the time, told the ARB the house “does not have an Historic Designation and is not listed on the Antebellum Homes or the Centennial Homes of the Historical Society,” the suit states.

Connolly states the ARB, during the meeting, “was overtly hostile” towards the applicants and the city staff. He said ARB Chairman H.E. Bonnoitt “sharply criticized Ms. Kinder’s presentation and recommendations.... as he did with (Martin).”

Connolly said the ARBs decision seemed to be based entirely on testimony given by Tommy Graham who “has no engineering or architectural expertise.”

Connolly says he has spent more than $335,000 on the acquisition and maintenance of the property since 2006. He said he wants to tear the house down and build two new houses on the property.

By Scott Harper

sharper@gtowntimes.com