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Dissatisfied with lack of compromise, Historic Landmark Commission stalls

Wednesday, November 21, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

After its fourth public hearing, the Clarksville storybook house remains a point of contention between owner, commission and the Clarksville Community Development Corporation.

Priscilla Glover, the owner of 1002 Charlotte St., told the commissioners at their Nov. 19 meeting, “I have heard your comments on the design of my house. I’m not changing it.”

She noted that all three of her adjacent neighbors were supportive of her design, and that, as the home is designed in the Tudor revival style, it fits within the character of the community, which she called “eclectic.”

To corroborate Glover’s claim, neighbor Sharon Miller came to show her support of the home and presented a slideshow of properties that contribute to the Clarksville historic register district. Among them were two Tudor revival homes, a contemporary structure, a prairie home, and one with no stylistic influence. “In addition to them, (Clarksville cottages) we have a wide variety of contributing properties in the Clarksville,” Miller said. She explained that the variety of structures that have been constructed over the years contributes to making Clarksville such a unique historical district.

“The arguments made about the continuation of revivalist styles is interesting,” said Commissioner Kevin Koch, who noted that the Charlotte Street house was not the typical “white box” that they try to prevent coming into the district. “It (the storybook house) would make me smile when I walked by it, but it would also remove a contributing property.”

Mary Reed, the president of the Clarksville Community Development Corporation, suggested relocating the contributing house that is currently on the property. When Glover explained that she contacted Reed directly after the meeting last month to make arrangements for the property manager of the CCDC to inspect the house, she said that the neighborhood organization told her it would be unable to make a decision until its Nov. 20 meeting. “It’s clear,” she said, “it’s simply another delay tactic.”

Commissioner Koch explained that in the case of this property, delays are not necessarily a bad thing. National Register historic districts “represent a documentation and historical record” and to keep them intact, he noted that he is “inclined to use all the tools in our toolbox.” In the case of this property, that includes the allotted six-month delay that the commission can use to make a decision. As the demolition permit for this property was filed in August, it can be postponed until the beginning of February.

The commissioners expressed their hope that a solution could be found prior to the deadline. “If it were relocated within the neighborhood that would be ideal,” said Commissioner Terri Myers.

However, Glover noted that imposing the continued delay is not considerate of her financial situation – she owns the property and pays taxes, yet is not able to develop as she sees fit. In an effort to convince the commission to grant her the demolition permit, she requested that members “not just pander to the CCDC; their tactics are just a way to manipulate the applicant until they are worn down.”

Vice Chair Emily Reed had a different view. “I don’t think it should be an easy process to remove a building from the historical register,” she said. “Especially when it seems that not many compromises have been made.”

The commissioners voted 6-1 to postpone the hearing until their December meeting. Commissioner Alex Papavasiliou voted against the motion and commissioners Mary Jo Galindo, Andrew Brown and Emily Hibbs were absent.

Photos of the existing home (top) and proposed home courtesy of the city of Austin.

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