Real Estate & Property Law

Architect's home sits empty after unhappy neighbor wins reversal of building approval


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Photo courtesy of Louis Cherry.

Corrected and updated: Architect Louis Cherry’s home in a historic neighborhood is about 85 percent finished, but he can’t complete the job until the courts decide whether his “certificate of appropriateness” should be revoked.

Cherry’s home in Raleigh, North Carolina, is unoccupied because of “a series of protracted appeals” by his neighbor, who didn’t like the way it looked, according to an op-ed in the New York Times.

The neighbor, Gail Wiesner, lives in a home built in 2008 but she says Cherry’s home is too modern for the historical character of the neighborhood. Raleigh’s Board of Adjustment voted 3-2 in February to overturn approval by the Historic Development Commission, according to prior coverage by Vanity Fair, the News & Observer, Indy Week and Today Money.

One news report compares the style of Cherry’s home to that of Frank Lloyd Wright. Wiesner says the contemporary style of Cherry’s house is “a round peg in a square hole” that is too large and too close to the street, according to Indy Week.

But Cherry says his home is compatible with the neighborhood. “For most people, the idea of compatibility is ‘looks like,’ ” he told Vanity Fair. “They consider what I’m doing an affront to history. But I’m trying to celebrate vitality, and it is sympathetic to the spirit of the neighborhood.”

Cherry is appealing to a superior court judge. According to March news coverage by the News & Observer, the city was also planning to appeal. A city attorney, Dorothy Leapley, told the newspaper that the Board of Adjustment failed to determine whether Wiesner’s property value was affected and whether she had the right to challenge Cherry’s permits. Leapley also said the Board of Adjustment’s rulings need to be based on the character of an entire neighborhood, rather than individual streets or homes.

Wiesner’s lawyer, Andrew Petesch, tells the ABA Journal that his client filed notice of intent to appeal eight days after Cherry obtained his certificate of appropriateness. And she filed the appeal within the required 60-day period, he said. “His decision to go forward came after his awareness” that the certificate was being contested, Petesch said.

Petesch also noted that minutes of a Dec. 9 meeting of the Board of Adjustment indicate that Cherry was informed that if he continued construction on his home, he was proceeding at his own financial risk. At that time, he had laid the foundation, but he couldn’t do additional work until after inspection approval, which was given on Dec. 11, Petesch said.

Wiesner’s appeal isn’t based simply on her dislike of the design, he said. She contends the design doesn’t comply with standards required by state law as carried out by city design standards.

Corrected at 11:15 a.m. to indicate courts are considering the certificate of appropriateness. Updated at 11:15 a.m. to include comments by Wiesner’s lawyer.

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