Historic house

A house built by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in 1926 or 1927 in the 200 block of Pensacola Avenue will be torn down and replaced with a larger home after the City Council gave approval Tuesday.

VENICE — The City Council has reluctantly but unanimously affirmed the demolition of the house at 233 Pensacola Ave.

The matter was before the Council on Tuesday on an appeal of the issuance of a certificate of architectural compliance by the Architectural Review Board to allow the demolition.

A certificate is required under the city code when a property is in the city’s Historic District.

The owners, John and Geneice Sullivan, want to demolish the house to make way for the construction of a new home on the property.

They looked into restoring it but contractor Gregg Hassler told them it would be extremely expensive.

An estimate they obtained after the ARB meeting put the cost just of bringing the house up to code at $275,000. Hassler said that hidden problems could add another $75,000 to that price.

“This estimate is only the beginning, in my opinion,” he said.

More than a dozen residents challenged the issuance of the certificate and urged the Council to overturn the ARB’s decision. The board erred in not following the applicable standards in issuing it, they said.

They also made a plea for the preservation of the house, built in the 1920s in the John Nolen era, as a part of the city’s history.

The Nolen Plan for the city is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“If you’re not going to adhere to Nolen, stop paying lip service,” Tommye Whittaker said.

She added she and her husband had made a cash offer for the house and promised to move it to leave the lot clear for the Sullivans to build on. They initially accepted, she said, but set a timetable that couldn’t be met.

The problem for them and the other challengers was that the city code doesn’t have any standards for issuing a certificate unless the house is on the local historic register, and this one isn’t.

In fact, Building Official Greg Schneider said, it’s not on any historic register, though it’s considered a “contributing structure” in the Historic District, which has a Florida Master Site file.

There’s no evidence any owner has ever agreed to list it on a register, which would be required, he said.

Demolition also wouldn’t be in conflict with the city’s comp plan, Director of Development Services Jeff Shrum said.

That meant there was no basis to find the ARB had made a mistake, so the Council members essentially said their hands were tied.

Council Member Mitzie Fiedler said she applauded the Whittakers’ commitment but she had to vote for demolition “because that is our law.”

Council Member Helen Moore said she would as well, “holding my nose a bit,” while Mayor Ron Feinsod said he recognized there was no protection for the house in the city code “but I’m not real happy about it.”

When it approved the certificate for demolition the ARB also considered and postponed action on a certificate approving the design for the Sullivans’ new home.

A revised design received the board’s OK last week but an appeal is being taken of that decision.


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