GREENSBORO — Owners of the historic mansion previously featured on the television show "Hoarders" went to court Monday for permission to turn part of it into a bed-and-breakfast.
They appealed to Guilford Superior Court the city Zoning Commission's decision to deny the special use permit needed to operate in the single-family residential district of Fisher Park.
"What fact could they have looked at to support their denial?" J. Patrick Haywood, an attorney representing property owners, said during the hearing. "The zoning commission didn't make any findings of fact."
But Deputy City Attorney Terri Jones asked the court to uphold the zoning commission's decision.
Judge Eric Morgan of Forsyth County did not issue a ruling on Monday.
He'll do so after reviewing the information and briefs from attorneys for the city and E&V Properties, the real estate development company run by property owners Michael and Eric Fuko-Rizzo.
The Fuko-Rizzos bought the property in September 2016, and have since cleaned up and rejuvenated the mansion and its 1.6 acres.
Morgan could uphold or reverse the zoning commission's decision, or return the case to the commission for further proceedings.
If Morgan finds that the commission made only procedural errors, for example, he could ask that they be corrected.
Known as Hillside, the brick and half-timbered mansion at 301 Fisher Park Circle was built in 1929 for Julian Price, the president of Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Co.
For years, its beauty was hidden under overgrown foliage and clutter, accumulated by then-owner Sandra Cowart. Cowart lost the house to foreclosure, and the Fuko-Rizzos purchased it.
In January 2017, the A&E television show "Hoarders" aired an episode filmed there, showing a work crew emptying it of Cowart's possessions.
The Fuko-Rizzos have since restored its former glory.
At its May 20 meeting, the zoning commission voted 4-3 against a motion to approve the bed-and-breakfast permit request for the mansion.
City staff and the city's Historic Preservation Commission had recommended the special-use permit, the latter saying that a bed-and-breakfast would be compatible with the goal of the long-term preservation of the house.
At the May zoning hearing, the Fisher Park Neighborhood Association board spoke in favor of the permit, with conditions.
But about eight residents spoke against it, voicing concerns about parking and noise.
Haywood filed the appeal on June 28.
"Petitioners' proposed use of the property as a bed-and-breakfast met all requirements set forth (in the zoning ordinance)," the appeal said.
Among those requirements: The owner or operator must live on site. The Fuko-Rizzos moved into part of the house with their 4-year-old twin daughters in June.
They had planned to rent out five other bedrooms in the 31-room, 90-year-old house to guests.
The owners agreed it would not be an an event center, a fear expressed by neighbors.
They agreed to comply with the zoning rules for bed-and-breakfasts in a residential neighborhood.
Rules also require that it not be within 400 feet of a rooming house or other bed-and-breakfast, it allows no more than six guest rooms, and guests can't stay longer than 15 days within a 60-day period.
The owners agreed to more conditions — to make guest records available to the zoning administrator, locate required parking on site and prohibit bands, DJs, amplified speakers or instruments outdoors at any time or indoors after 10 p.m.
But during Monday's hearing, Deputy City Attorney Jones said that the zoning commission did not find that the applicants had met their burden to receive the special-use permit.
For the zoning commission to grant the permit, it had to conclude that the proposed use would not be detrimental to the health and safety of those living and working nearby; that it would provide a service or facility contributing to the neighborhood’s well-being, and that it would be in harmony with its surroundings.
“If the zoning commission doesn’t make those findings, then the special use permit shall not be granted,” Jones said.
Morgan did not indicate when he would make his ruling.