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Homeowners, neighborhood battle over Bradford-Nohra house again

Monday, July 26, 2010 by Michael Kanin

A battle over property rights between a home owner and the Hyde Park neighborhood has gone through the legal process and returned to Square 1.


The owner of a home on Avenue G that has been at the center of a debate over its historic value will apply again for a permit to demolish the structure. Sylvia Nohra Dudney told In Fact Daily that she would submit the paperwork by the end of this week.


Her action comes on the heels of a court ruling that reinforces claims that the Historic Landmark Commission’s vote starting the process of giving the Bradford-Nohra house historic designation was improper. However, in a letter to the litigating parties, District Court Judge Rhonda Hurley ruled that “the action of the city to grant a demolition permit on or about May 18, 2009 was also invalid.” 


Dudney (on behalf of her mother Helen Nohra), the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association, and the City of Austin are all involved in the case. Attorneys for the neighborhood are currently preparing an order for Hurley’s signature. When completed, Assistant City Attorney Christopher Coppola says that he anticipates that the city will have no serious disagreements with its wording.


Dudney and her brother, Charlie Nohra, have long opposed the historic designation (See In Fact Daily, June 8, 2009). If they abide by regulations associated with that type of zoning, renovations to their home could cost the family as much as $2 million, he said.


The Nohras would prefer to tear down the house and build a set of condos which they say would be reserved for family members. “They thought we were doing all of this construction (so that) we could make money. We’re not,” says Nohra. “We’re doing it for the family; this is going to be a family compound when we’re gone.”


The family also disputes the potential historic designation. In addition to the fact that the house has been significantly changed since the Nohras bought it in 1942, they question the merit of the history on which the zoning is based.


“They say Dewey Bradford was a pioneer of Austin and his son was a famous actor—he was a double in (Ben Hur),” says Nohra. “These things that they claim he did, he was not living here. We were here since 1942. Everything they claim about Dewey Bradford…(he was) long gone when all of (that) was going on.”


Indeed, for Nohra, the dispute is not necessarily all about history. “(Some members of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association) want to control this neighborhood for some reason,” he said.


“These people are powerful. This handful of people have got some political clout,” he later added. “They want to control everybody’s property rights.”


Hyde Park Neighborhood Association Steering Committee president David Conner said that the Bradford-Nohra house is a historic structure. “(It’s) a contributing structure to the (Hyde Park) National Historic District and our local historic district that will be coming up soon.”


According to the neighborhood association’s web site, “(it) began an effort to designate Hyde Park as a Local Historic District in order to provide stronger protection to existing historic resources.” If enacted, that designation “provides a mechanism to ensure that architectural changes within the local historic district are compatible with the historic character of the district.”

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