By Colleen Sparks
A neighborhood push to establish an historic designation for a controversial home on North Central Avenue is gaining steam but the process is far from complete.
The Phoenix City Council is expected on Wednesday, Dec. 4, to consider whether to establish Historic Preservation (HP) overlay zoning for the property at 7019 N. Central Ave., just north of the northeast corner of Central and Glendale Avenue. Last month the city Planning Commission voted to recommend that the property, known historically as the McElroy-Young House, receive the Historic Preservation (HP) overlay zoning.
Community members and the North Central Phoenix Homeowners Association (NCPHA), have protested a possible demolition of the house. David and America Young, who own the home, had requested permission to tear down the home. If the house were eventually listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register, it would offer a new zoning overlay that would protect the home from major changes including being demolished.
Anne Ender, president of the North Central Phoenix Homeowners Association, spoke in favor of historic preservation for the home at the Planning Commission meeting in November and was glad that the Commission sided with her and her neighbors.
“It was encouraging I think because I didn’t expect it would be unanimous,” Ender said. “They were really thoughtful about the decision. We were very pleasantly surprised. I really appreciated the questions that were asked and the facts that went into the decision.”
William Fischbach, an attorney representing the America M. Young Trust (of which David and America Young are trustees), is still fighting to allow his clients to demolish the home.
“This is a matter of private property rights that are guaranteed by the United States and Arizona Constitutions, and we intend to use all appropriate remedies at law to protect those rights,” Fischbach said.
At a hearing Nov. 1, a Phoenix hearing officer rejected a claim by the Youngs that the new zoning overlay would create an economic hardship for them. Fischbach filed an appeal of that decision, arguing that the property poses a significant tax burden and costs for maintenance and refurbishing for the Youngs, who are getting older and can’t keep up with the work.
City staff members had recommended the Historic Preservation overlay zoning. According to Kevin Weight, principal planner for the city of Phoenix, the home meets criteria to be eligible for that zoning under the City of Phoenix Zoning Ordinance. A staff report said the home is significant because of its “association with early 20th century agricultural development in Phoenix,” noting that the rectangular-shaped, two-story home is a great local example of the American Colonial Revival style.
Roger Brevoort, a preservation activist and advocate in Phoenix representing not-for-profit organization Preserve Phoenix, spoke during public comment time at the Planning Commission in favor of the Historic Preservation overlay zoning for the site.
“We don’t want to lose the character of North Central,” Brevoort said. “That designation creates and enhances value.”
Gianni Pattas, an associate attorney who works with Fischbach, spoke in support of the Youngs’ desire to demolish the home. He said America Young is a nurse by trade and she took care of the previous owners of the property.
Planning Commission Chairman Justin Johnson said he could understand arguments on both sides of the issue.
“I am truly torn on this case,” Johnson said. “I’m one of the biggest property rights people. I haven’t seen a real pushback against the Historic Preservation process.”
Ultimately he voted in favor of the Historic Preservation overlay zoning, as did all the other Planning Commission members.
The City Council will meet in the City Council Chambers, 200 W. Jefferson St. on Dec. 4. For details or an agenda for the meeting, visit phoenix.gov.