Saturday, September 8, 2018

Owner of Van Sweringens' Roundwood Manor sues Hunting Valley over denial of condo plan (photos)

HUNTING VALLEY, Ohio - A lawsuit could determine the fate of historic Roundwood Manor, once the heart of the real estate and railroad empire built by the Van Sweringen brothers, builders of Shaker Heights and Cleveland's Terminal Tower.
Sylvia Korey, who has owned the 10-bedroom, 55,000-square-foot house since 1988, has tried unsuccessfully for 16 years to sell it, lowering the price from $7.9 million to $4.5 million.
Now she's suing the Village of Hunting Valley over its denial of her request to subdivide the big house into six luxury condominiums, which she believes would sell quickly to buyers who want to downsize from larger homes.
The village's zoning code requires a 5-acre minimum lot size for a single residence, a criterion Korey's proposal doesn't meet.
But Korey's lawsuit, filed May 2 in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, asks the court to permit the subdivision and throw out the village's ruling.
She contends that the village's stand constitutes a taking of her property rights, and that the 5-acre acre minimum is unconstitutional because it serves no public purpose.
She also appealed to the court to review the village's administrative handling of her request, including requiring her to pay $20,000 in fees to have it consider a conditional use permit to allow the subdivision of the mansion, and later, in an amended request, to consider a special use permit.
"I've done everything I can to work with the Village to help them see the vision for Roundwood Manor," Korey said in an email. "I hate to have to resort to legal action, but it's the next logical step." 
Bruce Rinker, a lawyer representing Korey, said that historically, the 5-acre minimum zoning would have provided rural dwellings with enough room to separate septic systems from wells, a public health rationale that no longer applies to Hunting Valley.
Stephen Byron, the lawyer representing the village, said the 5-acre minimum lot size "is the heart of the village's zoning code."
He also said in an interview that "a property owner doesn't have a right to maximize the value of her property. She has the right to be able to sell and if she set a sale price at the right price, at what the market would pay, the house will sell."
Byron said that the village would respond to Korey's lawsuit and administrative appeal in a timely manner.
Korey's plight has attracted the attention of historic preservationists because Roundwood Manor is considered an icon of Cleveland's early 20th century expansion.
The lawsuit states that the only offer Korey received for her property would have paid only for the value of the land on which the house stands, and that the buyer would have torn it down.
"In my opinion, she's doing the community a favor because he's providing the opportunity for the house to be redeveloped," said Kathleen Crowther, executive director of the Cleveland Restoration Society.
Architect Philip Small designed Roundwood Manor for the Van Sweringens in the mid-1920s as their home and the nerve center of a business empire that collapsed in the Depression.
Subsequent Roundwood Manor owner Vernon Stouffer, president of the Stouffer Corp. and a former owner of the Indians, reduced the house by 35,000 square feet to its present size.
The house still includes a vast indoor swimming pool, several dining rooms, a soaring, two-story stair hall, a social hall known as the "Ship Room," and the "Dickens Room," where the Van Sweringens displayed books by the author.
After World War II, the 430-acre Daisy Hill farm surrounding Roundwood Manor became an exclusive suburban subdivision east of SOM Center Road and south of Shaker Boulevard, surrounded by a distinctive white plank fence.
The Daisy Hill Neighborhood Association, which governs the subdivision, opposes Korey's plans to divide the house into condominiums.
George Smerigan, the consulting planner for Hunting Valley, contends that installing condominiums in the house would increase traffic and noise, harming the owners of adjacent properties, according to a review of facts in Korey's lawsuit.
A native of Romania who grew up in Lakewood and who earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering at Cleveland State University, Korey raised four daughters at Roundwood Manor with her husband, Samir Korey, from whom she is now divorced.
According to her lawsuit, Korey spent $1 million installing a new slate roof on the house. In interviews, she has said she pays $60,000 a year in property taxes.
All parties, including friends and sympathetic neighbors, say Korey has done an excellent job caring for her property, where she lives when she's not traveling.
Rinker estimated that Korey's administrative appeal could last 6 to 9 months before it is resolved, and that her lawsuit could take 9 to 12 months to reach a trial.
When asked whether Korey had the resources to pursue such a lengthy legal course, Rinker said: "She has wherewithal to see this through."

  • 1 month ago
Why the he’ll don’t they do what Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens does? Give tours etc. if this place was to be torn down it would be a catastrophe! There is way to much history to let this place be lost forever! Wake the hell up and save the place!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Request to convert historic mansion to condos denied


Chagrin Valley Times

Request to convert historic mansion to condos denied

    Ryan Dentscheff

HUNTING VALLEY — The Village Planning Commission denied a resident’s proposal Tuesday to convert the 55,000-square-foot Roundwood Manor mansion located in the Daisy Hill enclave into six condominiums.

Resident Sylvia Korey has been working on the proposal for about two years as a way to preserve the property. She attempted to sell the home for about 15 years, but the only interested buyers indicated they only wanted the property and would raze the house, which last year was added to the Ohio Historic Inventory.

She said the historic value of the home, originally built in the 1920s by Oris and Mantis Van Sweringen, is worth retaining. Converting it to the condominiums, and leaving the footprint and exterior of the building located on 7.69 acres at 3450 Roundwood Road, would be the best way to preserve the property. Keeping the large home as a single-family residence is no longer economically feasible, Ms. Korey has said.
On Tuesday, the commission voted 3-0 with one abstention to deny Ms. Korey’s request.
Planning Commission Chairman and village Council President Bruce Mavec said after a 30-minute executive session that the commission could not support the variance from the village residential zoning regulation that limits one residence per 5 acres of property.
The commission chairman only votes when there is a tie.
“The findings of the commission are that the density and zoning of 5 acres per residential unit is a key component of the zoning and therefore, we can’t grant the request,” Mr. Mavec said.
Jerry Medinger, who serves on the commission and village council, agreed.
“I think that the concept is one that I understand and under different sets of circumstances, I would support,” he said. “But I can’t see how what has been proposed doesn’t violate our 5-acre minimum zoning.”
Prior to a vote, Ms. Korey’s attorney, Bruce Rinker, made several comments pertaining to the case as to why the authority is in the hands of the commission – a point that had been debated in previous meetings – and why the proposal is unique and necessary for this historic property.
Commission member Christopher Nook, who also voted to deny the request, said he doesn’t want to see the home demolished.
“I want to make sure it’s clear that I’m not suggesting or in support of demolishing the home,” Mr. Nook said. “I’d like to see another resolution to restore it or keep it intact, but I don’t think this is the right one.”
While some members of the commission may believe that there are other options to preserve the home, Mr. Rinker and Cleveland Restoration Society Executive Director and President Kathleen Crowther said after the meeting that the proposed conversion is the best and only solution.
Ms. Crowther was involved in the process as a historic homes expert.
“We’re very disappointed and think that the decision by the commission is short sighted,” Ms. Crowther said. “(The decision) doesn’t promote preservation, it encourages demolition.”
Mr. Rinker said that allowing the conversion to condos would have stood the test of time. Now, he said, the decision could be seen by outsiders as “a black eye” for Hunting Valley.
“It’s a pretty extreme position to take in the face of all the evidence and good reasons that support preservation that Ms. Korey has promoted here,” he said. “We’ve had the Cleveland Restoration Society look at it, a lot of friends and neighbors, and there are a lot of people who have indicated that not only do they think it would work, but they would love to live there. That’s a win-win when you can preserve the history.”
Because a special-use permit was requested by Ms. Korey, village code does not call for an appeals process to council. Instead, she would have to take the matter to the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court within 30 days of the commission’s decision.
“In the past, I was hopeful that going to court would be the last option,” Ms. Korey said, indicating that she had not made a decision as of yet on the next step.
In response to being asked to elaborate further on the possibility of an appeal to the court, Mr. Rinker said, “For you to make it work, that’s the last option.”

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Condo proposal for historic mansion likely to be denied

Condo proposal for historic mansion likely to be denied

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Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2018 12:00 am
HUNTING VALLEY — The village Planning Commission is poised to deny an application to convert the historic Roundwood Manor, a 55,000-square-foot residence within the Daisy Hill enclave, into six condominiums.
After nearly two hours of discussion on Tuesday morning, commission members said they likely would not support a variance of the village’s longstanding zoning requirement of one residence per 5 acres of land. The three members in attendance voted unanimously to have Law Director Stephen Byron draft conclusions of fact that would support denying the application.
Sylvia Korey, the owner of the manor and 7.69-acre property, several years ago proposed the idea of transforming the interior of her house into six individual condos to be sold as separate residential units. She has attempted to sell the home since 2002 and said the only interest she received was a prospective buyer who wanted to raze the mansion and build a new house on the land.
She said she came up with the condominium idea because the property has become too expensive to maintain and converting it would be an economically viable way to preserve its historic value. The home originally was built in the 1920s by Oris and Mantis Van Sweringen and last year was added to the Ohio Historic Inventory as a historic property in the state.
Ms. Korey’s team of attorneys, historic property experts and planning consultants have presented their case to the planning commission over the past several months as to why converting the property is feasible and appropriate. The village has also heard from people in opposition of the project including the attorney representing the Daisy Hill Homeowners Association, Sheldon Berns. Also speaking against the plan was George Smerigan, the village planning consultant who presented his report Tuesday.
Various topics were discussed Tuesday, with the most notable being how and if converting the property would be a detriment to neighboring property values.
Mr. Smerigan and Ms. Korey’s team, primarily attorney Anthony Coyne, butted heads during the meeting this week on how the transformation would impact the community.
Mr. Coyne argued that under the current zoning code, the planning commission has the discretion with a special use permit application – which is what is being requested – to allow any use within the U-1 residential district that does not create “substantial injury” to neighboring properties.
“It’s not changing the footprint of the structure,” he said. “The visual effect on the community is not going to change and frankly, the likely number of residents will be less than (the number) who have continually occupied the house over most of its existence.”
Ms. Korey said during the 30 years when she lived with her growing family, as many as 14 people occupied the house at one time.
“I have not heard any substantial injury to the adjacent properties, that you have any objective or subjective evidence to present to the commission,” Mr. Coyne said, directing his comment to Mr. Smerigan. “To let this property fall into disrepair, to sell it to somebody who wants to demolish it I think would be most unfortunate and I think it would be a real black eye to Hunting Valley if you let that happen.”
Mr. Smerigan said the key issue is in changing the density requirement.
“In my professional opinion, it’s not consistent or compatible with the single-family residential standard and the density standard,” he said. “In my opinion, it would have a detrimental impact on the values of the adjacent properties.”
He said to the commission that in allowing the increased density on the property “you’re essentially going to change the nature and character of the village. And I think you’re going to do it in a way that is going to adversely impact a fairly significant number of the property owners in the village.”
After each side was finished presenting their stance, the three commission members in attendance – Chris Nook, Councilman Jerry Medinger and Council President Bruce Mavec – adjourned to a brief executive session to discuss imminent litigation with counsel. After reconvening, all three members said they could not agree with increasing the zoning density.
“I’m very much in favor of historic preservation and I think it’s always an excellent thing to pursue,” Mr. Mavec said. “My only road block is the 5-acre density, which has been a sacrosanct part of the zoning code and I have yet to be convinced how that wouldn’t undermine or blow a hole in that by agreeing to do this under this current request.”
Mr. Medinger said, “I agree 100 percent with the concept of trying to foster preservation. But I’ve never been able to get myself comfortable trying to understand, if we were to accept this proposal, how it couldn’t negatively impact the 5-acre zoning. Until I’m convinced that’s not the case, I just can’t support the proposal as it’s been presented.”
The commission is expected to vote on the proposal at its April 10 meeting. There are six commission members and three votes are needed for approval. If her application is denied, Ms. Korey could appeal to the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.