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Demolition permit finally released on controversial Hyde Park home

Friday, January 28, 2011 by Kimberly Reeves

Council Member Sheryl Cole reversed her vote on the Bradford-Nohra House last night and tipped Council, once and for all, to finally allow the demolition of the long-disputed Hyde Park home.


Council Member Randi Shade called the choice of historic designation on the Bradford-Nohra House one of the toughest in her time on Council. Last night’s reversal on historic designation, after two years of wrangling between the neighborhood and its oldest resident, came surprisingly quickly, in part because Council was about to lose its quorum as it moved into its evening session.


Cole, who led the initial motion to designate the house historic, reversed herself last night by pulling the item off the consent agenda, where it was slated for second reading as a historic property. Then she asked Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky whether any new information had arisen on the case.


“I’m not aware of any, Council member,” Sadowsky said.


The Hyde Park neighborhood has longed argued that the Bradford-Nohra, impressive in size and on a large lot, was critical to the neighborhood. Sadowsky, in his presentations, had countered it was almost impossible to tell how much of the original fabric of the 1913 home had been preserved.


“It fails the test of integrity,” Sadowsky said in one of his first presentations on the house. “The big problem here is that it is what it is. It does not look like what it was when the Bradfords lived here.”


The Nohras, represented by cousin and developer Jimmy Nassour, wanted to demolish the house and replace it with a safer structure with some income property potential. Nassour’s aunt, who is 102, still lives in the home. Nassour said she and her family could hardly afford a renovation of the property, which Nassour pegged at just over $1 million.


Last night, after Cole made her initial motion, Council Member Bill Spelman offered his own substitute suggested by local preservationist Emily Little: zone the footprint of the house historic and allow the family to place an additional structure on the balance of the property.


“So you’re saying that we can have a win-win in two weeks?” Cole asked.


“I am given the understanding that Emily Little and Karen McGraw believe it is possible to convince the family that they might be able to come out just fine with an alternative approach,” Spelman said.


Shade could not be convinced and immediately expressed her doubts.


“I’ve sat through countless mediation sessions and also spoken to Emily Little,” Shade said. “It would be my preference that the house could be preserved and the family could build what they wanted, what’s allowable, as far as the floor-to-area ratio and the neighborhood conservation combining district, but I don’t believe we’re going to achieve that because, as long as historic zoning is being forced upon this owner, I don’t believe that they’re going to be able to negotiate that kind of discussion. I feel pretty confident of that.”


The power of the passion from the Heritage Society and the neighborhood association had made the case tough, but it had not overruled the objections made by the owners in Shade’s mind.


“I really, really hope and pray that the neighborhood and the family will resolve things,” Shade said of the potential demolition of the house. “They’re going to be neighbors for a long time.”


Spelman’s motion for the historic footprint failed, which brought back Cole’s original motion against historic zoning. That passed on a vote of 4-3, with Cole, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez and Shade in favor.


After the hearing, Zoning Manager Jerry Rusthoven said the motion by Council now allowed the Nohra family to immediately pull a demolition permit on the property.

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