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!