ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The owner of a historic home got caught making changes to it without the proper permits, and some of his neighbors felt it stripped the home of its original charm. The house off Coal and Arno got a complete facelift that doesn’t match the rest of the Huning Highland neighborhood that has cottages, Victorian-style homes and even California bungalows.
The homeowner said there’s a reason he didn’t get the permits first. “It was mostly because of structural and safety issues in the home. So and like I was saying, time was of the essence so I had to go make these repairs,” homeowner Donald Mercer said.
Mercer added that it was last winter when he started replacing the wood windows with vinyl, changing the style of the columns, stairs and siding, and putting up a concrete block wall along Coal. He said he was approached by neighbors with their concerns. He then filed an application requesting the city’s Landmarks Commission, which has to sign off on work on homes in this historic neighborhood, to okay the work that was already being done.
Online records from April show the commission approved his request to make changes to the home but told him they need to meet the historic characteristics of Huning Highland. Specifically, he’d have to get permits, cover the wall with stucco, plus more adjustments to the columns and windows.
The Planning Department encourages people to improve their homes but says to check in with the city to make sure they’re following zoning standards. “It’s financially easier, it’s mentally a lot easier for folks to reach out to us and kind of explain to them kind of the hoops they’ll have to jump through rather than doing the work and then asking for forgiveness after the fact,” Planning Director Brennon Williams stated.
Mercer said the cost of the initial repairs was about $80,000. He suspects that redoing the work requested by the Landmarks Commission would set him back at least another $50,000.
The Planning Department said Mercer has appealed the commission’s decision. He’s expected to have a hearing later this summer. The other historic preservation overlay areas within the city are Silver Hill, East Downtown, Eighth and Forrester, the Fourth Ward and Old Town.