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Ruling favors Genoa district

by Christy Chalmers, staff writer

Size is a matter for the Genoa Historic District Commission to consider when reviewing new projects, a Douglas County judge says.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, District Judge Dave Gamble said the size of a building proposed for the middle of Genoa can be factored into a review of whether the project matches Genoa’s character.

The decision also overturns a June Douglas County Commission vote approving the project, a 12,280-square-foot motel and retail complex at the northwest corner of Main and Nixon streets.

Developer Bettie Kanelos sought the historic board’s endorsement of the project, but talks deteriorated as each accused the other of not providing enough information for action. The historic board, which reviews new projects to make sure they match the town’s historic character, denied the project and Kanelos appealed to the county commission.

The historic board and many Genoa residents disagreed with Kanelos over the size of the building. The residents said the structure would dwarf surrounding buildings, while Kanelos said she needs a 12,280-square-foot building to make the project profitable.

District Attorney Scott Doyle told the county commission size couldn’t be considered as a factor in approval. Soon after the commission’s decision approving the project, several Genoa residents formed a group called Support Historic Genoa, Inc. and went to court.

In his ruling, Gamble said the advice on size not being a factor resulted in an arbitrary 7,500-square-foot limit and prevented a full review of the project.

“The (county commission) should instruct the (historic) commission that it may consider the size of the building, as the size affects the proposed structure’s outward appearance and its congruity with the community,” Gamble wrote.

The county commission can hear any appeals of historic board’s decision, he said.