Oakwood/Lincoln Park, home to nearly 3,000 households, a wide variety of housing stock and a rejuvenated neighborhood association determined to preserve it, is one of the city’s biggest neighborhoods. One of the biggest controversies the newly seated city council will be asked to settle will be a long-running fight between the Oakwood/Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association and Habitat for Humanity.
At year’s end, OLPNA officers were scrambling to raise the $500 fee needed to challenge a Metropolitan Planning Commission decision by the Dec. 29 deadline.
The dispute dates back to December 2015 when Habitat bought a century-old Victorian-style house at 431 East Springdale in the Atkins Addition, the oldest section of Oakwood/Lincoln Park, and demolished it two months later. The area is not protected by any historic designation, although the neighborhood association has applied for a Neighborhood Conservation (NC) overlay, which is less restrictive and financially burdensome than a Historic (H-1) overlay.
Habitat’s defenders say Habitat bought the house fair and square, and those who opposed the demolition need to get over it and move on.
Neighbors say that no “for sale” sign ever went up on the property and that the house was sold before buyers who would have been willing to preserve it were aware that it was on the market. Habitat was forced to alter its plan for a five-bedroom house with no back door, a low-slung roof and non-conforming setbacks at the city’s infill committee meeting.
The dispute bounced back and forth between city council, MPC and back to the infill committee for the next two years. In September 2017, the day before city council was scheduled to decide the issue, the two sides attended a meeting that ended with one side (Habitat) believing that they had a compromise agreement and the other side (OLPNA) believing third parties anxious to bring the dispute to an end had coerced them. City council kicked it back to MPC, which voted in Habitat’s favor in December.
If OLPNA raises the funds and gets the appeal filed in time, the ball will be back in city council’s court. It will be an old issue to incumbents Mark Campen, Marshall Stair and George Wallace. For newbies Stephanie Welch, Andrew Roberto, Seema Singh Perez, Lauren Rider and Gwen McKenzie, it could be a baptism by fire.
This story revised at 10:20 a.m. Dec. 29, to more fully explain the neighborhood’s objection.