The Hotel Next Door
The Turtle Creek Drive neighbors say the owner is running a business. He says he’s just having friends over.
It is a perfect little street—a narrow lane, really. What a peaceful life the homeowners must have here on Turtle Creek Drive, you think, as you stroll the gentle climb of the hill overlooking Turtle Creek, just north of the Dallas Theater Center. You hear birds, the crunch of leaves. There are probably bunnies.
But then there is that house, as the neighbors call it. At the tippy-top of the incline, there sits a five-bedroom Moorish mansion called Casa Bellamini. The 8,412-square-foot home reportedly cost $13 million to build in 2008, though it is on the market now for $6.9 million. It was designed by noted architect Cole Smith and features two indoor swimming pools. The short-lived ABC show The Deep End used the house last year as the lair for the show’s villain, a philandering lawyer.
But it isn’t the size of Casa Bellamini that has the neighbors riled. It’s the parties. At 3816 Turtle Creek Drive, hundreds of guests have descended at once for movie premieres, Halloween parties, and weddings. They have arrived in limousines and buses, blocked the road’s two entrances, and spilled onto the street, in throngs. A nine-page press release invites people to come to Casa Bellamini for days, even, checking in for spa retreats, at $9,500 per weekend night. It says they can soak in a grotto, under a waterfall. Or order room service. Photographs display headless nude sculptures and intimate alcoves. “Enjoy your favorite cocktail served while watching movies in upstairs pool [sic],” states the release. “Enjoy a picnic served by our staff. Enjoy a complimentary private yoga class on the lawn by the creek.” A physician can even be retained to administer Botox, laser, and Restylane treatments. More than a dozen websites advertise the charms of that house on Turtle Creek Drive.
The ads shouldn’t come as a surprise. “This is not your normal construction,” says Tyler Fair, an architect with Smith’s firm. “It was not intended for a family to move into it. It was to be rented out for events as a wonderful architectural spectacle.”
The neighbors, then, are upset that a business is being run on their tranquil little street. They’re an impressive crew. Internationally recognized craniofacial surgeon Dr. Kenneth Salyer lives on the street, as does the well-connected attorney David McAtee, Robert Edsel, president and founder of The Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art (which received a National Humanities Medal), Fashionistas founder Heidi Dillon, and Rave Motion Pictures chairman Thomas Stephenson (for the record, he is married to D Magazine’s associate publisher). They wouldn’t have much of a beef if the owner of the house, 42-year-old Braden Power, were inviting his pals over for a squirt of Botox in their foreheads. But “clients”? Friends are not called “clients.” Friends don’t pay “$35,500 for six nights, with *additional staff available @ $600/day.” Friends don’t get asterisks. Or ampersands.
“My fence has been hit repeatedly. My car was hit by a workman during a TV shoot Mr. Power was having, without consulting the neighbors,” says James Stephens, who lives on the same street as Casa Bellamini. The door of his own casa was pounded upon one morning, at 2:30. “Some guy was screaming that he wanted sex. By the time the police arrived, he had returned to the party. Guests wear badges. They exit in various states of intoxication. It’s been like living across the street from a bar.”
Adds Edsel, “The rules prohibiting use of a private home in an entirely residential area as a for-profit business, on an ongoing basis, are well established, and should be observed by all homeowners and aggressively and promptly enforced by the city and its attorneys.”
The neighbors have banded together to implore the city to take action. Since June 2009, they have contacted at least 17 city officials in assorted departments.
Power, who, with his brother Craig, operates a property management business called Power Properties, declined to participate in an interview. About a decade ago, he wasn’t so shy when the Dallas Morning News published a lengthy High Profile story on the brothers, one of the highlights of which was an anecdote related by a friend of Power’s. She described how he’d once stood up while driving his convertible on the Tollway so he could take off his clothes and throw them at her as she drove behind him.
Power did send an e-mail about his neighbors’ concerns about his house. “I am not running a business out of my home,” he says, “and I do not believe I have violated any laws in connection with my property. There has not been a single citation for a sound or parking violation at the house during my ownership.”
Power is correct. No citation has been issued for “sound or parking.” But on June 2, 2010, the city did issue Power a criminal citation for the code violation of illegal land use. A hearing was set for December 1 and then reset for January 26. The city’s Code Enforcement Department observed fee-charging events take place at the home and found proof that Power had advertised his house as a commercial enterprise.
“We can’t go in there every time he has a party, looking for cash at the door. So we monitor. We talk to neighbors,” says James Childers, assistant director of code compliance. “The evidence started to mount up. We issued the notice and told him he’ll have his day in court.” Childers says that Power doesn’t even live in the house.
Attorney Cole Ramey of Crouch and Ramey, who represents Power in “other litigation unrelated to this case,” says that his client intends to tell the court that he has not violated a code, in the way a resident might defend himself against other code infractions, such as “overgrowth in an alley.”
If Power is able to sell the house, the neighborhood will be rid of the nuisance. But it has been on the market awhile. The phrases “not for everyone” and “It takes a special buyer” come up often in conversations with area Realtors. If wild parties drip onto the street regularly, they are asked, will the value of the neighboring houses plummet? Seems so.
Since the summons, the frequency of events has diminished, from about three per week to one or two per month, according to Stephens. Just a few weeks ago, said one neighbor, a drive-in movie screen and club chairs were brought onto the property, complete with huge cranes that shot lights down onto the home. Since the reporting of this story, though, Stephens says that Power tidied up the junk pile on the property, and the incessant in-and-out of cars, even when there is no party, has waned. He noticed that Power’s lights have been out by 10 pm of late.
“This normal behavior is not normal for Mr. Power. But it’s most welcome, however brief this respite,” Stephens says.
As the case plays out, one imagines hundreds of Power’s close personal friends are waiting for their next invite. Perhaps a little get-together to watch the Super Bowl? With additional staff and Botox?
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