CHARLOTTE – In the mid-1980s, Nelson Casstevens applied for – and received – historic distinction from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission for his property at602 E. Morehead St.
Casstevens since then has run his law firm out of the house on that parcel, a house which is nearing 100 years old. But the lawyer, looking to hang up his briefcase and throw out his legal pad, has found a buyer interested in his property and
appears eager to sell.
That buyer just isn’t interested in the house on that property, so Casstevens has filed a certificate to demolish the house.
But the Historic Landmarks Commission isn’t in the business of seeing local historic properties torn down and on Monday evening voted to delay for a year the demolition of the house, known locally as the G.G. Galloway House.
The Galloway House is the only surviving structure in what used to be a wealthy residential district on the south side of East Morehead Street in Dilworth, according to the Landmarks Commission. The bungalow-style house was designed by William Peeps, an architect of regional significance in the first half of the 20th Century in Charlotte, the commission website says.
Dan Morrill, director of the Landmarks Commission, said he hopes the 365-day delay on possibly knocking down the Galloway house will allow for a reversal of fortunes at the property. He said there isn’t a contract in place on the house between seller and buyer, which means another party could emerge and make an offer.
“What you try to do is to try to find a preservation solution,” Morrill said. “It’s clear that Mr. Casstevens wants to benefit from the sale of his asset. Someone could come forward to make an offer on the house, someone that would want to retain it and not tear it down.”
The Landmarks Commission could also try to dissuade the owner from selling the property, though Morrill said that would
be difficult if Casstevens is looking to cash in on the property, which has a county tax value of $596,000.
The third option is for the Landmarks Commission to buy the property from Casstevens, though Morrill also thinks it unlikely the owner would be willing to sell at a price the commission could afford.
“The Historic Landmarks Commission does have the funds and ability to sit down and negotiate with the owner,” he said. “The difficulty is that we use taxpayers’ money, so we don’t like to pay more than an appraised price for it.”
Rob Pressley, president of Coldwell Banker Commercial MECA, who is representing Casstevens on the sale of his property, said the demolition isn’t imminent and that the certificate of demolition is only to keep open all available options.
“We’ve had (a few) offers on the property, and one of those interested parties has made us an offer contingent upon knocking down the house,” he said. “But we aren’t under contract. . .and we’d like to see the house preserved.
“We just wanted to make sure we had all options open to us.”
A factor that could help in the Landmark Commission’s quest to save the Galloway House is taxes. Since Casstevens got a local historic designation on the house, he’s been able to defer half of his annual property taxes. If he does something to forfeit the historic designation – something like demolishing the house – he will be forced to pay three years of full back taxes on the property and a separate penalty, which Morrill said is 9 percent interest on those back taxes.
If Casstevens sells the property to an owner that doesn’t tear down the house, he will not be penalized, giving hope to some on the commission who want to see the house remain a part of the Dilworth community.
John Shurley, vice chairman of the Landmark Commission’s design-review board, said the one-year delay imposed by the commission is to “try and figure out a solution,” but admitted that the organization has limited power in this situation.
Morrill said he hopes the commission can find a way to preserve the home, but said “the ultimate future of the property rests with the owner.”