by Sam Hieb
Perhaps you saw the infamous the “Sandra” episode of the A&E program “Hoarders.” For those who have not, a quick recap—interior designer Sandra Cowart owned the famous Julian Price mansion here in Greensboro’s tony Fisher Park neighborhood (full disclosure—I live around the block) for years, but she fell behind on the payments and was fighting foreclosure when Michael and Eric Fuko-Rizzo came in with a unique offer—they would buy the mansion and do everything in their power to help Sandra make a graceful exit-and deal with the mountains of junk she had accumulated– but it would be documented for the whole country to see. The episode became one of the most popular ‘Hoarders’ episodes ever.
Long story short–Sandra moved out, and the Fuko-Rizzos have done an excellent job renovating the mansion. But now they find themselves in a zoning dispute. The mansion is zoned single family, but the Fuko-Rizzos–who are adoptive parents of two small children–envisioned the property as an event space. The Fisher Park Neighborhood Association protested, and now the couple have applied to the City of Greensboro for a special use permit to allow for a bed and breakfast.
Now the FPNA officially supports the special use permit, with appropriate conditions. But— as you can probably imagine– the FPNA’s Facebook page is alive with opinions on both sides of the issue. I can tell you the FPNA has in the past been opposed to any rezoning in fear of “zoning creep” that would diminish the neighborhood’s historic status. One commenter said “with a handful of ‘million dollar’ homes currently for sale on and close by Fisher Park Circle, I fear we might be inviting new buyers to the neighborhood hoping to open their own ‘event space’ property. Once a precedent is set, it is difficult to go back.”
Many appreciate what the Fuko-Rizzos have done with the property and believe they should be supported in their endeavor, and FPNA’s officially supports The case will go before the city’s Zoning Commission on May 20. The city staff recommends approval of the special use permit, so the commission’s decision will be interesting. What would be even more interesting is if they turn down the permit application and the Fuko-Rizzos appeal to the City Council. It would be even more interesting if the commission approves the permit and another citizen appeals to the City Council.