Thursday, December 30, 2010

Knox Hill Project : Year in review

Since we will be busy getting insulation in I won't have time for a blog tomorrow, so I thought I'd get the Year in Review done today.

Two years ago we were in our second month of home ownership. In fact we were not even at a restoration phase. we were still trying to clear a yard that had nothing done to it in over 18 months while the house languished in foreclosure. We had not yet received our first "Nastygram" from the city and were only concerned with getting the house restored and put back in shape. Buying this house was no brainer, Second Empire architecture is the most prized of the Victorian era. If we could have found one in Indianapolis (there are only a handful) we would have easily paid over 100K for this house. People here have no idea what they have.
You couldn't really see much of the house when we bought it or for that matter much of our neighborhood which was overgrown, there is new pride now and yards are better kept.

I have no idea who the 'Einstien'  was that created the VBML, maybe it made sense 14 years ago but today is the most laughable and useless city ordinance I have ever seen and and is perhaps the biggest anchor around the ciy's neck in terms of turning this city around. I didn't pay this city sanctioned 'extortion" when I got the "nastygram" from the city in March of 2009, and I didn't pay in in 2010, and I will NEVER pay it and am totally prepared to wind up in Federal Court if need be to get this ordinance, that is little more than governmental redlining of economically disadvantaged historic neighborhoods off the books forever!

In our case the records show that a prior owner didn't fix a window fast enough for an inspector and he slapped a VBML on the property. If we had 'common sense' in city government the inspector  who took over for that inspector would have realized we were 1.) Not a slumlord, 2.) the window in question had been repaired and 3.)The house was secure. In a "normal" city government, we would have a simple administrative mechanism to 'convert' a VBML back to a repair order at the request of an inspector when the house has been sold and is obviously under restoration. But instead, the city decided to get into this 'pissing match' and someday the council will have to announce that a federal court found the city guilty of facilitating Redlining, that they have to pay millions in fines and damages to the Feds and those impacted by the VBML, and refund any VBML fees plus interest, paid by the very few people who actually succumbed to this form of city extortion..
The metal garage fell down or was pulled down before we looked at house. We finished the job this year by removing the tired side porch. Eventually this point is where the new wing to the new 2 story carriage house will attach.

Anyway, back to the house, as a lot has happened this year. The outside was painted and we have begun the progress of the sunken garden restoration. The biggest news of 2009 however had to be the discovery of the Neo Grec stencils found throughout the house. This 'find' is the type of thing that preservationists like myself dream of. It certainly is a rare historic feature of  the house and it amazes me this entire house , and probably a large part of this neighborhood, would be in a landfill  by now, if we had not bought this house. It proved that city officials have no clue what historic is, where it is, and that our Office of Urban Conservator is a joke, staffed by people who are unqualfied for the jobs they have. We know know this area is not only historic eligible, it played a key role in Cincinnati history and when this neighborhood is a National Historic District, I hope every person who wrote this neighbrohood off is sitting in an unemployement line because that is where they should be. Who knows what other discoveries are waiting to be found by those who are now coming into this neighborhood, buying these homes and restoring them.
Few would have ever imagined that beauty of rare historic stencils lied beneath plain white paint. How many other houses in our neighborhood, a neighborhood the city ';wrote off', have similar details waiting to be discovered?

What we need is more people like us and less city officials getting in the way of neighborhood turnaround. People should not be presumed "slumlords" by city officials, they should not have to spend countless hours arguing with city officials, going to meeting and hearings. We should get back to the business of restoring this great city, because that is what it is.

What will 2011 bring? For us it is the continued restoration of our home. Inevitably more fighting with city officials as they continue this "pissing match". They have no clue who they are dealing with and the day the national registry sign goes by my front door, maybe in 2011, Mike Fhen, Ed Cunningham , Mike Cervey, Larry Harris, the City Council, and the mayor can "Kiss my you-know-what" because the Nagele-Merz House will be a National Historic Landmark, in spite of them!

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