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Special meeting set to consider Enfield home demo permit

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The Historic Landmark Commission will hold a special meeting next week to deal with a demolition permit requested by the buyers of a home at 1115 Enfield Rd. The homeowners are requesting the permit to cover all of the work they say will be necessary for an extensive re-model and possible addition to the structure, but neighbors want the building declared historic and preserved.


Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky told the commission prominent local automobile dealer Eugene Shropshire had originally owned the home, dating back to 1917. Sadowsky said the exterior of the home had been significantly altered since then, either in the 1930’s or 1950’s, and no longer retained its historic character. Later owners of the home had rented out rooms and a back apartment on the property.


However, neighbors asked the commission to prevent the demolition of the home. “This is in a very important location for both the Old West Austin Neighborhood Association and the Old West Austin Historic District,” said Linda MacNeilage. “I think that this house is in a very important place, and really does convey information about the original houses of this period in this location.”


Other neighbors presented photographs of the house dating back to the 1930’s. They also raised questions about the paperwork filed requesting the demolition permit. More than one speaker asked for details about the applicant’s signature on the permit. In cases where the owner opposes the historic zoning, a super-majority vote of the commission is required to recommend historic designation. Neighborhood representatives contended that the buyers of the home should not qualify as the owners, since the transaction has not been completed, and therefore the commission should be allowed to recommend the historic designation with only a simple majority.


However, Sadowsky told the commission that the home’s current owner had given his approval for the demolition request. One of the partners in the group intending to buy the house testified that the current owner’s signature was also on the demolition permit request.


Commissioners wanted additional information about the ownership of the house and the legal status of the parties requesting the demolition permit. They set a special called meeting for May 29 to receive that information from staff, along with additional information about the home itself. Postponing the case until the commission’s next regularly scheduled meeting would have allowed the permit to be granted automatically, since the city has 60 days to act on the permit request, which was made April 2.


Commissioners urged the buyers of the home to reconsider their need for a demolition permit and to work with the surrounding neighborhood on a design for any renovations to the property. “We’re not interested in what’s happening on the inside, we’re interested in what’s on the outside,” said Commissioner Daniel Leary. “You’ve got a wonderful capability of restoring here what is really a jewel of a house.”

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