Genoa preservationists say size does matter

GENOA - An effort by preservationists to block development of a retail complex in the sleepy town of Genoa has taken a new turn.

Support Historic Genoa Inc., a nonprofit group of Genoans intent on preserving the historic appearance of the town, has filed a lawsuit against the Douglas County Commission.

The group is asking for a reversal of decision to allow developer Bettie Kanelos to put up a 12,000-square-foot structure that would house 10 hotel rooms and seven retail shops.

Preservationists say a decision by the Genoa Historic District Commission that rejected the project should be revisited by the county commission. As a governmental body, the GHDC lies under the county commission

"We are saying that there were violations of the open meeting ordinance that were so flagrant that it should be sent back to the Genoa Historic District Commission," said Genoa-resident Ron Funk. He added that the lawsuit should help in the development of "some sort of measuring stick for future building."

The group, which claims to have gathered 194 signatures in a petition supporting its position, also says that District Attorney Scott Doyle was errant in advising that the GHDC cannot consider size in plan approval.

The alleged open meeting law violations occurred on June 1 and June 15 when the commission was considering Kanelos' proposal. After debate and revision of the plans, the county commission voted 4-1 to approve the project, despite rejection by the GHDC.

Kanelos said she is unaware of the lawsuit, but plans to march forward with construction. Ground breaking will take place in two weeks, she said.

"All I know is that I have gone by every rule and regulation," she said in a telephone interview Monday. "I don't see what these people want. If they want me to roll over, then I'm sorry, it's not going to happen."

The property in question lies on the northwest corner of Foothill Road and Genoa Lane. The structure would be adjacent to the firehouse, the Genoa Community Church and the Genoa Courthouse Museum.

The biggest beef activists have with the project is its sheer size in relation to neighboring buildings.

They say the building will be 1 1/2 times the size of the fire house, 2 1/2 times the museum and 15 times larger than the church.

"This has been bubbling since early April in terms of the size of building," said resident John S. Henningsen, one of the effort's protagonists. "It's a battle over who can determine what can be made to look historic.

"The size of this building is overwhelming."

The lawsuit is on file at the Douglas County District Court. No hearing dates have been set.


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