Board vote might not be Sunnyside victory
Saturday, February 23, 2013 8:13 PM
Not much will get a group of people to rally 'round than talk of a town or city's historic fixture falling into disrepair or falling into the wrong hands.
Witness the skirmishes that nearly could have been taken to the historic Civil War battlefields around Manassas, Va., where Northerners and Southerners alike banded to say "no" to a big box store occupying historic battlefield acreage there.
Witness, a bit closer to home, the failing but continuing efforts on the part of many in Ware Shoals to save that town's former keystone structure, Katherine Hall.
More recently, Greenwood's City Hall was chock-full of people, on a weekday, to rally around a 165-year-old home known as Sunnyside. At the meeting, things did not remain on the sunny side as two camps stated their cases before the Board of Architectural Review.
Sunnyside, which is situated on a parcel of land of just more than 3 acres on Dargan Avenue, is a beautiful piece of architecture with columns, tall windows and ornate trim that gives it a subtle gingerbread house appearance. At one time, years ago, the house was owned by the man who served as this newspaper's editor and publisher, Harry L. Watson. More recently, it served as a bed and breakfast; however, its current owner, Jackie Godson, can no longer maintain the home and intends to sell it.
Along comes a group that wants to buy the property. A white knight for Godson and Sunnyside? Yes. And no.
And this is where the story takes a rather interesting twist. The group wants to buy the property, add buildings and, essentially, turn the property into Greek housing (sororities and fraternities) for Lander University students. The group was seeking the creation of a historic overlay, which would preserve the home while allowing for development of the area around it.
Set aside the dilemma the BAR found itself in. A historic overlay district, in this case, would not really be a district, it would be a single structure. Furthermore, new buildings constructed for Greek housing would not constitute historic buildings.
At any rate, while the proposal sounded like a win-win to some, others had visions of the movie "Animal House" and think it would spell the further demise of Sunnyside itself; therefore, they expressed their strong opposition to creating the overlay district. And won.
Interesting enough, the owner can sell the property to anyone who wants to develop it, and that means a buyer could potentially come along who would tear Sunnyside down.
Following the protracted hearing last week, BAR ultimately denied the request to create the overlay, bringing to a close hopes the development company had of creating a Greek village that, yes, would have included converting the historic home into a fraternity house.
The owner had a buyer, along with a bit of hope she would be free and clear of a property she can no longer maintain.
But what about the rest of those in attendance who succeeded in thwarting the plan that would pave the way for a Greek village? What did they win? Unless they are willing and ready to write checks, buy Sunnyside, restore it and turn it into something viable, they really only won a little more time to leave it as is. And as is, it will continue to fall into disrepair.
We certainly can sympathize with those who want to preserve the integrity of Sunnyside, who don't want to see it become another Delta Tau Chi House; however, unless they have or come up with a better solution, chances are greater Sunnyside will continue a downward spiral until the sun sets on it forever.
Historic preservation is grand, necessary and commendable, but it takes more than amassing a group of protesters who secure the vote they want without securing a real future for what they sought to preserve in the first place.