Fortified by the voices of experts, Roundwood Manor owner Sylvia Korey filed an appeal last Friday in an attempt to save her historic Hunting Valley home.
It’s the second time she’s done so, and a decision that she informs Cleveland Magazine was far from easy. But despite the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas’ Feb. 24 verdict denying her the right to convert her home into upscale condominiums, she refuses to give up.
“This is not expendable architecture,” Korey says. “It’s a part of our heritage. It belongs to Cleveland, not just Hunting Valley.”
Initially, Korey had been uncertain where her next steps fell to preserve the historic, 55,000-square-foot mansion she calls home and others call Roundwood Manor.
Built by the Van Sweringen brothers (authors of the Terminal Tower complex, Shaker Heights and Shaker Square) in 1927, Roundwood Manor is the architectural masterpiece seated in the heart of Hunting Valley’s Daisy Hill neighborhood. Its immense size has deterred buyers since 2002, when Korey initially sought to downsize. The only offer Korey received was verbal, and the buyer was only interested in the land.
Unable to swallow the idea of selling her historic home only to have it razed, Korey is fighting to have the manor converted into six luxury condominiums. Korey remains encouraged by the public, as well as experts, to maintain course for her cause.
“They both have provided me in the past immeasurable guidance and wisdom,” Korey says of both Cleveland Restoration Society president Kathleen Crowther and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s deputy general counsel Betsy Merritt.
Referencing a recent conference call, Korey says, “Betsy really encouraged me not to give up the quest to save Roundwood Manor and said that they would partner in this effort to help protect this important historic property.”
A 1938 village ordinance permitting only one family per every five acres remains the project’s prevailing legal kryptonite.
In an email to Cleveland Magazine, the Village of Hunting Valley mayor, Bruce Mavec, writes, “The facts in the case have been established, and the judge has ruled. The Village is disappointed that additional public resources will have to be spent on what we believe to be an unfounded request for further legal action.”
Korey’s lawyer, Anthony Coyne, objects, “The one thing that has never been explained is why they’re enforcing this in the way that they are. That large lot zoning requirement with no exceptions is as about as exclusionary of a land zoning as there is.”
Korey’s appeal to the Cuyahoga County Eighth District Court of Appeals can result in three scenarios. The three-member judicial panel can affirm the trial judge, remand it back for a hearing or reverse the trial judge.
If they choose to reverse — and the Village of Hunting Valley refrains from appealing to the Ohio Supreme Court — Korey will have her units.
“Based on the law, and the evidence, and the law as applied to the evidence, I think we have a good chance of the court reversing the trial judge,” Coyne says.
“The way we’re subdividing the house will have no adverse effect on the community, Daisy Hill or Hunting Valley, and in fact, it would be in my judgement, an appropriate use for the building, given the use of some of the properties very nearby and given the historic significance of the structure,” Coyne says. “I would hope that when we present our briefs and make our arguments, we can hopefully get Ms. Korey justice.”