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HISTORIC HOUSE HUBBUB

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A man’s home is his castle – that is, of course, unless his castle happens to be located in the Swiss Avenue Historic District. That’s the complaint of Bobby Mayes, a homeowner in the district. He has specific plans to renovate his new house on La Vista Drive, but the Swiss Avenue Task Force has another vision. The result? Mayes’ house is halfway restored.

Problems began shortly after Mayes purchased the house in March 1982. According to the ordinance of the Swiss Avenue Historic District, “work cannot begin on a project [remodeling, restoration, etc.] unless a certificate of appropriateness has been issued.” Mayes applied for permission to paint the brick of his house, install a brick sidewalk up to the public sidewalk in his front yard and convert a portico area into a sunroom. All three requests were either denied by the task force or received only conditional approval.

Mayes says he laid the sidewalk despite the denial because the ordinance states that “walkways and driveways in the front yard shall be constructed of concrete and/ or brick.”

He appealed his case to the Dallas Historic Landmark Committee, the City Plan Commission and the City Council. The task force’s decision was upheld each time.

Mayes says he thinks the whole thing got off to a poor start. He says the task force is overstepping its bounds because its members are angry that he began work without permission.

“There’s a great injustice here,” Mayes says. “I’ve lost thousands of dollars and good workmen. They [the task force] are just using every tool they can to discourage me, and they think that if they press me hard enough I’m going to give in.”

Ariel Peugh, chairwoman of the task force, says the members have nothing against Mayes personally. “The task force is not acting out of capriciousness,” she says. “We [the task force] have a very serious responsibility. Appropriateness goes back to what this house looked like when it was built. The task force does make decisions for appropriateness.”

Mayes has taken his case back to the task force and plans to appeal its decision again.

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