After months of legal troubles and harsh words, design plans for a home at 5C Gorham Ave. last night received a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic District Commission. The fourth and final home plan for the lot was presented by the developer's mother, Judy Larson.
"It's been an incredible battle," said Larson. Area residents took her son, Chris Montanaro, to court to force him to conform to historic district standards. The resulting stipulated judgment required Montanaro to choose among three approved designs for the home at 5C Gorham Ave.
Still, Montanaro suubmiited a fourth design at a meeting of the commission in April. The design presented at last night's meeting was originally submitted in April. At that meeting, opposition to the design itself was minimal. However, Montanaro appeared at the meeting without having filed the paperwork to submit he fourth design in time. After some cross words with the panel's chairwoman, Margaret Feczko, he withdrew the application with the intent to resubmit. Neighborhood residents had harsh words for Montanaro, one telling him to "get his house in order" and another swearing at him in the hall. Still, an agreement was reached to amend the court decision to include the new design.
At the opening of last night's meeting Feczko noted that all of the amendments to the stipulated judgment were filed and agreed to. Larson, who designed the homes her son wants to build, presented the previously forbidden plan.
"It's really quite attractive," said Feczko. Other commission members also commented positively on the design. When Montanaro first submitted it two months ago, Feczko spoke highly of it then as well but said the commission's hands were tied until he followed through with getting the amendment. Commission Alternate Grayson Braun recused herself and left the room during both meetings. She is one of the parties in the suit against Montanaro.
In contrast to the crowd reaction to Montanaro two months ago, no one stood up to speak against the design or his mother last night.
Bob Utzler said opponents to the Gorham Avenue development should count their blessings. "They should feel lucky there aren't 20 condo units going in there." That was Montanaro's original plan before settling on building just the five homes. Utzler owns one of the lots.
"People are just afraid of change," said Larson. Moving forward, Utzler and Larson expect the process could repeat itself with each of the remaining three homes yet to be built. Each will need an approved design which may require more negotiations and amendments to the stipulated judgment.
"It's a design challenge because the lots are long and narrow," said Larson.
Outside of the design issues, Montanaro was served with tax liens on the Gorham Avenue properties.
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