Frustration, miscommunication put the house on shaky ground
TEXARKANA, Ark. — Every house has a story.
If the walls of 403 Pecan Street could talk, they would probably weave a story of hopes, disappointments and misunderstandings.
The facade of the nearly two-story Craftsman-style structure is barely visible through the vegetation that has overgrown the property. What’s remarkable are the gaping holes in the roof that let in enough sunlight to illuminate the upper level of the nearly century-old dwelling.
“He’s been on our list to be sentenced,” said Lynn Kilgore of the Public Works Department.
Yet the city’s hands are tied when it comes to the house.
“Being in the historic district, we have to go through the paperwork,” Kilgore said.
City planner Mary Beck, a staff member of the Historic District Commission, agreed.
“Negligent demolition is quite a complex process,” she said.
Among other things, the historic commission order prohibits the negligent demolition of any “property designated as a historic landmark or in a historic district” and establishes a process by which owners are notified that repairs or maintenance are needed. The Commission can ask a court to order the work. The city is not authorized to issue a demolition permit for such property until the commission reviews the permit application.
Given the lengthy process of razing a structure to a historic neighborhood, the city stands at a crossroads regarding 403 Pecan — but it’s not alone.
Texarkana owner Oscar Coleman said it was about 20 years ago when the property caught his eye. At the time, he was a visiting truck driver in Montana.
“He came across an app on my phone for available accommodations,” he said.
Coleman said the single-family home seemed like a good buy as he was looking for a primary residence for himself and his two underage daughters.
The property was a heirloom shared by a group of relatives who had never seen the house, Coleman said, but were eager to sell it.
Tax records show the house sold for $25,000.
Coleman said one of the first changes he wanted to make was the removal of the coating. However, because the property is in the historic district of the original town, he needed permission to carry out large-scale renovations. He submitted a request to the city’s historic commission, which Beck said is still on file, and quickly got to work.
However, the renovation quickly came to a halt.
Coleman said a neighbor, who was also renovating a house, approached him one day and said something startling about the requirements for homes in a historic neighborhood.
“He told me I had to paint it certain colors. It didn’t make sense to me.”
Coleman said the neighbor also informed him that only wood-framed windows could be used as replacements on the house.
As he compared what he wanted to do with what the historical commission standards allowed and prohibited for ownership, the costs began to mount, Coleman said.
“For a complete renovation, it would have cost around $15,000 in materials and labor.”
The situation was made worse by what Coleman said was a misunderstanding of his intentions for the property, alleging the commission had the idea he was trying to convert the house into apartments.
“It’s really a one-bedroom house, because the only room with a closet is downstairs. I was going to convert the upstairs to two bedrooms and a bathroom for my daughters.”
There were even allegations that Coleman was scrapping the property.
“All he was doing was selling material from the building,” Beck said.
Coleman found the allegation puzzling.
“The counters were plastic and tin. It was like a kid’s kitchen. I had never seen it before,” Coleman said of some of the items he removed from the house and threw away.
“Things that are of no use to me, I give away.”
Coleman said the headache of trying to rehabilitate the home while navigating the historic district’s standards and suspicions became a burden, especially as he tried to find time for work during the short periods when he was off the road.
“It’s a failed deal because I was unable to attend the historical commission meetings to describe what I wanted to do with the property,” he said.
Ultimately, Coleman stopped communicating with the commission and abandoned his plans.
“I’m not going to move in,” he said. “I haven’t been there for years. It might not be safe to go now.”
Beck echoed Coleman’s frustrations about 403 Pecan.
“He was never asked to do anything other than remove the aluminum liner,” she said.
Still, the planner said all was not lost with the property, calling the home’s cherry wood floors “irreplaceable.” She said the property “probably had some value because of its location.”
The JK Wadley House is just two blocks north at 618 Pecan.
“JK Wadley was among the 20 richest men in America,” Beck said. “He lived in this house for 60 years. It was the kind of neighborhood that was close by.”
Wadley, the namesake of Wadley Hospital, is known for his introduction of the electric golf cart. He even has a golf trophy named after him.
Beck said it was difficult to put an accurate value on the house due to years of neglect – Coleman said it had been at least two years since he had done any garden work there – but she said steps could be taken to save the structure.
“All someone has to do is come to the commission and say, ‘This is what I want to do,'” Beck said. or a diagram of the materials she plans to use and where she will go to help the committee make decisions.”
In Coleman’s case, since he has an application on file, he doesn’t have to pay a fee to amend his application with the type of work he wants to do, Beck said.
“We can send an application by email. He can sign it and send it back with the appropriate documents.”
Thanks to the changes brought about by the pandemic, Coleman was able to attend the commission’s hearing of his application by phone, Beck said.
The planner said Coleman might be surprised to learn of the changes the commission has made in the years since he last had a relationship with him. For example, the commission now allows owners of properties in historic neighborhoods to use less expensive materials than wood to replace windows, as long as they stay in the same style as the original.
“The commission is working hard to try to come up with some sort of solution if someone wants to work on the property. I don’t know what they want,” Beck said.
Kilgore knows what she would like to see with Coleman’s house.
“It has potential, but it will take a lot of work,” she said.
Days after being told of Beck’s interest in working with him, Coleman, who was doing local delivery, paused briefly before asking a question that could write a new chapter for 403 Pecan.
“What’s his number?” »