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Genoa project approved

by Christy Chalmers

Expressing frustration that their opinions on size don’t matter, Douglas County commissioners approved what will be the largest commercial building in Genoa.

The building, a hotel-retail combination at Nixon and Main streets, will have staggered false fronts, wood trim and windows and several other aesthetic treatments that the Genoa Historic District Commission wanted. But it will likely stay at 12,280 square feet, despite a consensus among county commissioners and town residents that it will dwarf the rest of the town’s buildings.

“I hate that. But I know what the law says and I know what the county’s attorney says,” said County Commissioner Bernie Curtis before voting Thursday to uphold an appeal by developer Bettie Kanelos and grant permission for the project.

The historic district commission reviews projects to see if they match Genoa’s historic look, and the group previously rejected the Kanelos project.

Both sides claimed the other hadn’t provided enough information for action, and Kanelos appealed to the county commission.

Despite repeated meetings, the two couldn’t compromise, so the county board decided the issue. The board voted 4-1 to uphold the Kanelos appeal.

The building size remained a major sticking point. According to a memo from District Attorney Scott Doyle, size isn’t within the historic commission’s purview, and the county had no legal standing to consider the size.

“If you were going to be a good neighbor, you would reconsider that,” Curtis told Kanelos.

Kanelos said there’s no way she’ll cut the size.

“Absolutely not. I gave them 99 percent. I will not drop the size,” she said.

Despite the legal opinion, county commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen refused to vote for the project.

“I still feel the most important architectural feature you can look at is size,” he said before casting the only dissenting vote.

The final design of the project is subject to county approval. The county commissioners said they will give the historic board a chance to comment on the final design when it is presented.