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'Hoarders' house owners appeal denial of permit to operate as bed-and-breakfast

'Hoarders' house owners appeal denial of permit to operate as bed-and-breakfast

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GREENSBORO — New owners of the historic mansion featured on the TV show "Hoarders" have not abandoned their efforts to turn part of it into a bed-and-breakfast.

They have appealed the Greensboro Zoning Commission's decision to deny the special use permit needed to operate in the single-family residential district of Fisher Park.

At its May 20 meeting, the zoning commission voted 4-3 against a motion to approve the bed-and-breakfast permit request for the rejuvenated home at 301 Fisher Park Circle.

The Fisher Park Neighborhood Association board spoke in favor of the permit, with conditions.

But about eight residents spoke against it, voicing concerns about parking and noise.

Attorneys filed the appeal on June 28 in Guilford County Superior Court on behalf of E&V Properties, the real estate development company run by property owners Michael and Eric Fuko-Rizzo. 

It named the city of Greensboro as the defendant.

"Petitioners' proposed use of the property as a bed-and-breakfast met all requirements set forth (in the zoning ordinance)," the appeal said.

Among those requirements: the owner or operator must live on site. The Fuko-Rizzos recently moved into part of the house with their 4-year-old twin daughters.

They had planned to rent out five other bedrooms in the 31-room, 90-year-old house to guests. Guests would eat breakfast at Iron Hen Cafe two blocks away, Michael Fuko-Rizzo said in a Thursday interview.

Jake Keys, the city communications manager, said Friday that the city does not have a comment because the permit ruling came from a commission.

Known as Hillside, the brick and half-timbered mansion was built in 1929 for Julian Price, the president of Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Co.

For years, its beauty was hidden under overgrown foliage and clutter, accumulated by then-owner Sandra Cowart.

In January 2017, it gained national fame as the setting for an episode of the A&E television reality series “Hoarders.”

Cowart lost the property to foreclosure. Under the Fuko-Rizzos, it underwent a major transformation. Michael Fuko-Rizzo declined to say how much they spent. 

In spring 2018, it became the site of a Designer Show House to benefit Preservation Greensboro. Preliminary figures show that Preservation Greensboro earned about $120,000 from the show house, but the audit is not complete, Executive Director Benjamin Briggs said.

But when a wedding was held at the house in November, Fisher Park neighbors complained about cars and noise.

“When a family friend said, ‘Can I have a wedding there?’ I had never processed that they couldn’t or shouldn’t,” Michael Fuko-Rizzo said in an interview at the time.

A Toys for Tots holiday event for Realtors brought more traffic and complaints. Frustration on both sides spilled into the neighborhood association’s annual meeting in December.

The Fuko-Rizzos agreed to conditions for the use of the home.

It would not be an an event center, they said.

They agreed to comply with the zoning rules for bed-and-breakfasts in a residential neighborhood.

Rules also require that: it not be within 400 feet of a rooming house or other bed-and-breakfast; it allows no more than six guest rooms, and that guests can't stay longer than 15 days within a 60-day period.

The owners agreed to more conditions: to make guest records available to the zoning administrator, to locate required parking on site, and to prohibit bands, DJs, amplified speakers or instruments outdoors at any time or indoors after 10 p.m.

The city's Historic Preservation Commission recommended the special use permit, saying that a bed-and-breakfast would be compatible with the goal of the long-term preservation of the house, city Senior Planner Mike Cowhig said.

The appeal contends that the zoning commission based its denial "on conclusions unsupported by factual data, those being speculative assertions, mere expressions of opinion, and generalized fears..."

Michael Fuko-Rizzo calls the permit denial and appeal "just another bump in the road" during the four-year process of buying and restoring the house.

"It will all work out," he said.


Contact Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane at 336-373-5204 and follow @dawndkaneNR on Twitter.


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