Owner of round house sues over nearby shed
EUREKA SPRINGS — The owner of a round house in this tourist town says her…
EUREKA SPRINGS — The owner of a round house in this tourist town says her property has plummeted in value because an “unsightly” shed was built next door.
Twyla Pease of Cumming, Iowa, wants the shed torn down and/or $300,000 in damages.
The two-story maroon and yellow shed is just a few feet from the front door of the century-old Roundhouse, a four-story stone and wood structure. Its foundation was initially built to hold a round tank of coal gas used to light the city’s streets and homes. Later, it was a storage building for Ozarka Spring Water Co., which was founded in Eureka Springs and is now based in Texas.
“The financial value, historical value, visual ambiance and view to and from The Roundhouse has been ruined,” according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Fayetteville by Tim Parker, a Eureka Springs lawyer, on behalf of Pease and The Pease Family Trust, which owns The Roundhouse.
The Roundhouse is currently on the market for $595,000. It’s “generally believed” to be worth from $800,000 to $1.5 million, according to the lawsuit. Pease said she spent $1.3 million renovating The Roundhouse in 2001 and 2002. Carroll County real estate records show the house and land with an estimated market value of $442,800.
Potential buyers travel to Eureka Springs to tour The Roundhouse, but when they see the shed they change their mind, said Pease.
They don’t want to go into The Roundhouse because “I don’t want to live next to that,” said Pease, repeating a quote she heard from her real estate agent referring to the shed next door.
“I knew I was already taking a big hit on the price to begin with,” she said. “Never in a million years did I think I would not be able to sell it because of what was there.”
Becky Gillette, who owns the property next door, said the city’s Historic District Commission gave Josh Cook, her son-in-law, permission to build the shed. Besides being a storage shed, it serves as a shop for Cook, who makes knives, and an art studio for his wife, Bri Cook.
“What we did was legal,” said Gillette, who is a reporter for the Eureka Springs Independent, a weekly newspaper. “We went through and got the permissions to do what we did. She has a beautiful, wonderful property, but does that mean the people next door can’t build what they want?”
Cook said he was shocked when he learned of the lawsuit last week.
He has been working on the shed for a couple of years, as he gets money to proceed with construction.
“My life savings is in this,” he said. “Everything I’ve got.”
Eureka Springs has strict codes regarding construction in its historic district. Cook said he was trying to follow those rules when he painted the shed the same colors as Gillette’s house. He said Pease could have brought up her concerns when the plans were filed with the commission, which initially was 2015.
Pease said she was happy with the idea of Cook building a shed where he could work on knives, but that’s when she thought it was a one-story structure. Pease said it was about January this year when she realized what she thought was the roof of Cook’s shed was actually the floor. She said he was building a two-story shed, contrary to what city officials had told her.
“The next thing I knew, it was going up even farther,” she said. “I was never informed that it was going to be two stories.”
Pease said she asked Cook then about buying viewshed rights, but he told her he had already invested about $40,000 in the shed and wasn’t willing to tear it down.
Peace said the roof of the shed is slanted so it will shunt rainwater onto her property, which is just a few feet away.
Besides Josh Cook and Becky Gillette, Pease also named the city of Eureka Springs as a defendant in the lawsuit because its Historic District Commission approved plans for the shed even though it violates their regulations, according to the suit.
Pease is seeking monetary damages from Gillette and/or Cook. She also wants the court to rule the shed violates city code and should be removed. In the lawsuit, Pease is demanding a jury trial.
“What was presented to us met our guidelines,” said Melissa Greene, a member of the commission.
On Dec. 2, 2015, the commission approved Cook’s plan to build a 20-by-18-foot storage shed behind Gillette’s house. But the minutes from that meeting don’t reflect the building’s elevation.
Parker provided documents showing that the second-floor elevation drawings were time-stamped by the city March 1, 2017. They show the shed reaching a height just shy of the top of Gillette’s house, which is on the lower part of a steep hill.
That meant most of the shed is on the same level as the third story of The Roundhouse. The front door of The Roundhouse is on the third floor. The Roundhouse door is angled toward the shed.
The hilly terrain of Eureka Springs has made this a unique situation.
Although the two buildings are next door to each other, they face different streets that are on different elevations. The Roundhouse’s front door is on Hillside Avenue while Gillette’s house — also known as The Station House — faces Main Street. That means Gillette’s backyard is next to the front yard of The Roundhouse. When driving south on Hillside Avenue, the shed appears to be in Gillette’s front yard, according to the suit. Josh and Bri Cook live in Gillette’s house on Main Street. Gillette lives elsewhere in Eureka Springs.
Cook said there is only room for a 40-square-foot basement of sorts on the ground floor of the shed because of the proximity of Gillette’s house to a retaining wall. There isn’t room to build a 360-square-foot shed on the ground there, he said.
In the suit, Pease said she recently confronted Eureka Springs Mayor Robert “Butch” Berry about the shed, and he said, “We messed up.”
“Butch said ‘We didn’t do an elevation diagram. We blew it,'” Pease said. “That is really not an excuse. … It was really a mistake on the part of the city that they never addressed that, they never asked for that.”
When contacted by a reporter, Berry said he had no comment because of the pending litigation.
A large, circular structure first appeared on Eureka Springs street maps in 1892, according to the-round-house.com. The limestone and rock base was built to hold a round metal tank that contained coal gas.
In 1904, an 18-inch-thick walled limestone structure 44 feet in diameter was built to replace the metal tank. It was then used as a warehouse for Ozarka Spring Water Co.
Ozarka added two more floors to the building. Then Pease added a fourth floor during the renovation.
The building has been used for various purposes, including apartments, an art gallery, a restaurant and a nightclub.
NW News on 11/13/2017
Owner of round house sues over nearby shed