After nearly three years, the saga of Louis Cherry’s and Marsha Gordon’s modernist home on Euclid Street, in Raleigh’s historic Oakwood neighborhood, finally came to an end today.
Three N.C. Court of Appeals judges concurred with Wake County Superior Court Judge Elaine Bushfan’s 2014 decision that allowed Cherry and Gordon to complete construction of their modernist home, which Cherry designed, in the Oakwood Historic District, despite complaints from across-the-street neighbor Gail Wiesner.
In August 2013, Cherry and Gordon received a Certificate of Appropriateness to build their design from the Raleigh Historic District Commission. They started building, but, following Wiesner’s complaint that the design did not fit with the historic character of the neighborhood, and was unpleasant for her to look out at, the city’s Board of Adjustment rejected the design in February, 2014.
Cherry and Gordon appealed the Board of Adjustment’s decision to Wake County Superior Court. Judge Bushfan ruled the following September that Wiesner did not have the legal standing to challenge approval of the design. Wiesner appealed Judge Bushfan’s ruling, while Cherry and Gordon, who moved into their finished home more than a year ago, took on the risk that they could have to demolish the house if the appellate judges did not concur.
Tom McCormick, an attorney with the city of Raleigh, said this afternoon that Wiesner could ask the N.C. Appellate Court to rehear the case, or she could appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court to hear the case. He said neither option is very likely to be granted, so the case “could very well be over.”
From the appellate decision:
Although respondent lives across the street from the Cherry-Gordon house, the location of her home does not automatically give her standing to challenge the issuance of the certificate. A nearby landowner has standing to challenge a land use decision like this one only if the new construction will cause him to suffer some type of “special damages” distinct from other landowners in the area. Usually, special damages include economic damages such as a decrease in property value and other direct adverse effects on the property of the landowner challenging the proposed land use, such as smoke, light, noise, or vandalism created by the new property use, which are different from the effects on the rest of the neighborhood. Respondent’s claims of damages from the CherryGordon house are all essentially aesthetic, since she believes the house does not fit in with the historic neighborhood and is unpleasant for her to see from her home across the street. Even if she is correct in her assessment of the Cherry-Gordon house’s design, respondent has failed to show that she is an “aggrieved party” as the law CHERRY V. WIESNER Opinion of the Court – 4 – defines that term, so the Superior Court’s order reversing the Board’s decision was correct and we affirm it.
And here is a statement from Cherry and Gordon:
“We are delighted and relieved by the unanimous Court of Appeals ruling in our favor regarding our home at 516 Euclid St. We think it is a well-reasoned decision that will help protect homeowners like us from being subjected to inappropriate legal challenges. We had great appellate counsel in Joe Dowdy and Phillip Harris of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP. They made outstanding legal arguments that promoted the interests of justice in our case, and they have been extraordinarily dedicated to us.
We also are fortunate to have had so much support from our neighbors, from the City of Raleigh, and from people—friends as well as strangers—from all over the area. Thanks to everyone who helped us get through what has been a long and difficult process.
We have lived in our home for over a year now, and truly love being a part of the eclectic Oakwood neighborhood. We look forward to being here for many years to come.”