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516 Euclid Street - - Cherry/Gordon House

posted Jan 4, 2014, 6:40 AM by Philip Bernard   [ updated Mar 31, 2014, 8:33 AM ]
March 2014 Update: Back in January when this issue/debate began to take shape, we began a discussion on Nextdoor Mordecai to discuss this topic and the last post in that thread was January 21, 2014 when the discussion on Nextdoor ended. The information below was provided for the discussion at that time as information was first becoming available. At our January MCAC meeting, Gail Weisner and Louis Cherry and others spoke at that meeting and voiced their sides of this important debate. Since that meeting, much has happened and has been reported in the media and other sources, but due the complex nature of the debate and the many items of information pertaining to it, we have not posted any more supporting information here on this site. There has been no further MCAC discussion of the issue since that meeting and the MCAC has not taken any type of official stance related to it.  Please see the most recent March 30 article in the News and Observer:

Posted Jan 4, 2104 - - Some of you may have heard about a new house at 516 Euclid St in Oakwood which is causing great concern among Oakwood neighbors. They have asked the Mordecai CAC to post their concern on our Nextdoor email group on which there is currently a discussion thread in progress. Attached is a PDF (located at the bottom of this post) of the COA application for this project which contains extensive details and photographs of the project.

A special meeting of the Comprehensive Planning Committee is going to be held in room 201 at 222 Hargett on Monday Jan 6 at 11 AM to discuss procedures for holding public hearings on guideline changes. It was short notice to hold the special meeting but it would be great if folks from Mordecai who are interested could make it.

I asked Gail Wiesner who is leading this effort to clarify their position and this is what she explained were their goals:

We intend to stop 516 Euclid AND prevent this from happening again.

516 Euclid is currently in appeal to the Board of Adjustment. This is more than likely merely a step in getting to a court case with the Superior Court of Wake County.

It is a somewhat complicated explanation in total, but the short version is that we have the following goals:

1) Stop and reverse the construction of 516 Euclid

2) Improve the guidelines for Certificates of Appropriateness so that they are not able to be hijacked by a handful of people seeking to force their own tastes on the neighborhoods. It is even possible to have different guidelines in each district.

After we have completed these two goals, we will work on:

3) Alter the bylaws for the Raleigh Historic Development Commission to include a) advertising of openings (This is supposed to be done now, but is not) b) consistent notification and education of new homeowners about historic districts and COA procedures c) balanced representation on the commission as to profession and neighborhood. d) restore the name of RHDC to Raleigh Historic Districts Commission.

4) Alter the enabling legislation to give Raleigh citizens the same rights and protections as other citizens in North Carolina.

My primary message is this: These issues affect all neighborhoods that do not have the protection of legal homeowner's associations. We are ALL Raleigh, not the five people that have abused our trust and taken over. We need to ALL speak up. The city council is very responsive, wants to do this right and really cares about numbers of people showing interest. The time is perfect to protect our investment of money, time and effort as well as our way of life.

Back Story:

I asked Gail to provide some back story and here is what she wrote. She is happy to respond to anyone directly.  

Gail's response:
This is a pretty complicated issue and I will not be able to tell you all that has transpired, but
here is the crux of the matter:

The Raleigh Historic Development Commission has been quietly taken over by a few people with
an agenda.

Last year, one of the Committee on Appropriateness, who review all major changes in our houses,
an architect, Will Alphin, got approval by the rest of the committee for an outlandish
addition to a cottage in Oakwood, for which he was the architect.
That COA hearing was not attended because, frankly, no one suspected that they would ever approve
something like that. We have had rigorous reviews for years and never imagined the committee
would do this, or that the staff would! By the time we found out about it, it was completed.

Now another ultra modern home is being built on an empty lot. (application attached) This time
many of us went to the committee meeting and raised serious, detailed objections. We were
completely ignored. Please drive by 208 Linden and 516 Euclid. The reality is so much worse than
these representations show.

Because I live across the street, I am appealing through the Board of Adjustment. The problem
is, the guidelines are now so vague and lax that, to those not familiar with historic preservation,
they seem to allow this kind of structure. We have been subject to precedent within the
neighborhood for all our renovations, additions and new construction since we became a district.
Now that has all been thrown out, without asking anyone or even telling anyone, all by 6
people who have abused the system to the extreme.

There is a great deal more to this, but difficult to explain all here. Oakwood is in an uproar, and
the majority are very angry. We have been betrayed by the city of Raleigh. We spent hundreds
of thousands buying and restoring homes with the expectations that our neighborhood would be
protected. Now our property values and entire way of life are under attack.

There were a minority who supported the application, almost to the person they were modernist
architects, had a financial interest in the project, or believe "everyone should be able to do whatever
they want". They said it was a beautiful house. It may be, but it is completely incongruous with

We are proposing some changes to the guidelines, and later, to the bylaws of the RHDC. We need to
move quickly, though, and want to let everyone in the other districts know what is happening, since
we will all be affected. Shoot, even the surrounding neighborhoods and the entire city will be affected.
We have precious few tourist attractions in Raleigh as it is. Our tours of historic homes will also be
negatively impacted as the ambiance of the neighborhood is ruined. We have 19 buildable lots
currently, with at least 10 more possible, not to mention all the additions that can be made. EEEK!

We also found out that Raleigh is the ONLY place in the state where a committee may decide on
COA certificates. Everywhere else the entire commission has to hear applications. A few people who
are in a small minority (and can have financial gain) are deciding all our futures.

Even if you are not in a historic district, this issue is crucial. The new UDO claims to protect neighborhoods,
but those guidelines are set up in a similar way. Personnel could be making subjective decisions to suit their
own taste, just as happened here.

919 247 5183            

Mordecai resident Bart Letherman provided the additional insights:

I did some quick research and here are a couple links to what is happening on Euclid, along with detailed comments from both opposition and support of the project. ... View more (scroll down to read commets from the community) (this is the actual detailed plan of the project)

In the spirit of keeping an open mind, this quote from the certificate of appropriateness was very well stated: "The success of new construction within a historic district does not depend on direct duplication of existing building forms, features, materials, and details. Rather, it relies on understanding what the distinctive architectural character of the district is. Infill buildings must be compatible with that character. Contemporary design generated from such understanding can enrich the architectural continuity of a historic district" .

Update from Gail Wiesner on January 14, 2014:

As of yesterday, the board of adjustment heard the case to decide if the
Committee on Appropriateness acted properly. After three hours they
decided to wait until next month to make a decision. They felt it was
too complicated and wanted to read over everything again. It will
probably be appealed by whoever loses. That means it will go to the Wake
County Superior Court.

The owners of 516 Euclid were warned last month and again last night
that they continued building at their own risk, yet are carrying on.

The Comprehensive Planning Committee (CPC) of the City Council met last
week to discuss procedures for public hearings on changes to the Raleigh
Historic Development Commission guidelines and bylaws for the commission
itself. They decided to give the RHDC staff two weeks to come up with a
suggested plan to present to the city council in two weeks. The city
will then hold hearings.

I have attached the letter our neighborhood association board sent to
the chair of the CPC with our request for guidelines for Oakwood. The
guidelines do not have to be the same for each district.  Dan Becker
seems to think that can be handled through the Special Character Essays,
which are the "official" description of each historic district. The
description is supposed to be used as a guideline for each Certificate
of Appropriateness now, but that already very loose system, which has
been a problem for years, has become extremely loose lately.

A copy of the letter sent is located below under the word document: SPHO Guidelines.

Philip Bernard,
Jan 4, 2014, 6:40 AM
Philip Bernard,
Jan 14, 2014, 9:19 AM