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Historic Preservation: A Criminal Offense

I was recently criminally charged by the city of Lakewood Ohio for the historic preservation of my house. More specifically, I was charged with noncompliance for peeling paint while in the process of stripping and repainting my house after having removed the aluminum siding that's been covering it for 40-50 years.

I bought my house three years ago with the intentions of doing a restoration. I house-hunted for over a year and looked at around 200 houses before choosing this one because it retained all of its original architectural elements. I am a member of the Lakewood Historical Society and the Cleveland Restoration Society.  I run a historic preservation meetup group with a friend of mine. I've attended various workshops and seminars such as the Ohio Historical Society's Building Doctor Clinic, Bob Yapp's seminars on wood window restoration and exterior paint, Cleveland Restoration Society's seminar on exterior paint, and more. I've even had the Cleveland Restoration Society over to pick a couple of historic color schemes for my house. This city supposedly encourages people to be involved in historic preservation. At least that's what one would assume based on this recent Historic Preservation Community Workshop involving the Mayor. Yet I am doing just that and being criminally charged for it.

When I began removing the aluminum siding from the front of the house, I received a complaint letter from the building department stating, "maintain siding and trim"...clearly what I was in the process of doing. Despite my full cooperation with the inspector and complying with exactly what he said (to take care of the few small areas where there was peeling paint), I was summonsed to the prosecutor's office for noncompliance. I called the inspector back to my house to tell me what exactly I was in noncompliance of and he was unable to point out any violations.

A quick check of Lakewood's website revealed this Exterior Building Permit Checklist which states that no permit or inspection is required for exterior painting and that there is no time limit for the job. So obviously there can't be an issue of noncompliance when one is in the process of doing something, let alone something with no time limit. It would be like being cited for having no door on your house while you were in the process of installing a new door.

I went to the prosecutor in November 2009 with the above permit checklist and pictures of everything I had done on the exterior.  Someone on the board of the Historical Society and very active in programs designed to help in housing maintenance actually called the prosecutor on my behalf, saying how great of a job I'm doing to my house and that this is exactly what they want to see people doing. I mentioned that I am a federal employee with a security clearance and also a volunteer auxiliary police officer for the city and could not get a criminal record all because I chose Lakewood as the city to restore a house in. To which the prosecutor responded, "nobody said anything about you going to court, we are willing to work with you and will continue to give you extensions as long as you are showing progress...we only take people to court in extreme cases". I failed to see why I needed an extension for something that has no time limit but I went along with this plan. I never heard from the prosecutor again.

I got another letter from the building department in August 2010 for peeling paint and giving me one month to correct this. At this point I had removed the aluminum siding from the rest of the house and began the process of stripping paint off the entire house. Clearly something that is physically impossible to accomplish in one month. I decided to bypass the inspector this time and called the head of the building department and explained that I was restoring the house, that I was very actively involved in the local preservation community, and that it was already above the building department and the prosecutor was giving me extensions. He said that "every day is a new violation" so my extension was meaningless (so why do they have extensions then?) but that the inspector must not have realized I was currently working on it and to send a letter and he'd "take care of it".

I sent a large envelope full of pictures of everything I had completed to that point, proof of all the historic preservation seminars, workshops, and classes I had attended, and a long letter explaining everything. I mentioned that I hoped to get the house stripped by the end of the 2011 season. I said if there was anything else, not to hesitate to contact me. I didn't hear anything back. Finally, I thought I had gotten through to someone with some sense.

This season I have worked diligently, stripping the paint off my house. As many know, this is a long process, especially after synthetic siding has been removed. The aluminum was probably covering the original siding for 40-50 years so the original siding hasn't seen the light of day, let alone undergone any maintenance in that time (imagine the amount of work involved in restoring the exterior of a house which hasn't been touched in over 40 years). A lot of trim is broken or cut off the house to accommodate the aluminum. All the drip caps above every window, and the edges of every window sill (about 4") are cut and broken off. All of this has to be fabricated and repaired. Then, if there was any water infiltration over the years, nobody knew about it because synthetic siding hides all of that, so there is rotted wood to replace or repair. There are hundreds of long, rusty staples imbedded in the wood, which had held the aluminum in place. These all have to be removed, sometimes dug out of the clapboard. There are cracked or split clapboards that have to be replaced without destroying surrounding ones. All of the gutters have to be removed in order to remove the aluminum and strip the paint behind them. Then of course the tedious, most time-consuming process of all - removing all the paint to bare wood. The paint stripping in itself takes multiple "seasons" (in Ohio we only have certain months a year that are warm enough to work outside). Everyone I've talked to who has stripped paint off their house (and didn't even have synthetic siding to remove first) took between 2-4 seasons. And that's not even taking into consideration the other projects I've done: replacing the cedar shake, demolishing the vestibule, replacing the custom-milled side railing, refinishing the front door, etc. Then every vertical seam in the wood siding has to be caulked, and the house has to be painted. I have invested in all the tools and equipment to make the process go as fast as possible. I own 4 levels of contractor grade exterior scaffolding, the paint shaver pro (a very expensive tool specifically designed to strip lead paint from clapboard siding in the fastest way possible), numerous professional scraping tools, etc.

Throughout this whole restoration process, I've had many people - neighbors and random people driving or walking by - stop to tell me what a great job I'm doing and how much they admire all my hard work and dedication. Many saying they wished they had the energy to do the same to their houses. On average, I have at least one person stop per weekend to compliment me. A few weeks ago, a neighbor from around the corner whom I had never met parked in front of my house, got out and stood in my driveway clapping and saying "bravo" while I was working on the dormer. He explained that he has been following my progress all along and wanted to tell me what a great job I was doing. In fact, I have the full support of my surrounding neighbors, some of which have already contacted the building department to tell them how much better my house looks since I bought it, and many of which are even willing to go to court with me.
Suddenly, without warning, in June of this year I received a certified letter from Lakewood stating that I was being criminally charged for noncompliance. This was 11 months after I had last spoken to the building dept and told that it would be taken care of. Over a year since I had spoken to the prosecutor and told that I wouldn't have to worry about going to court. This was completely out of the blue. No second notice, no call, no letter, nothing whatsoever. So naturally, everyone thought it was some kind of mistake on the city's part that could be easily cleared up.

At this point I had given up hope on the building department (which has a pretty bad reputation anyway) and went straight to the Mayor. I had previously met the Mayor at the auxiliary police Christmas party, spoke with him about the importance of historic preservation, and mentioned that I was restoring my house. I again went through the whole story and showed all my documents and pictures. He seemed as baffled as everyone else who hears about this. His theory was that it was some kind of paperwork mix up at the building department. I mentioned that this is something that I will get an award for from the restoration society and yet the building dept considers it a criminal offense and these are two agencies that are supposed to be working toward the same goal. I was upset over the fact that this city is willing to jeopardize my career and give me a criminal record as their way of showing gratitude for everything I've done for them -risking my life volunteering for the police, volunteering for the Community Emergency Response Team, on top of restoring a house within the city. To which the Mayor said, "that's not going to happen". He thanked me for restoring my house, and said he'd ask around about it and get back to me. A couple days later he called me and told me that they all think I should enter this "housing diversion program". This is basically probation for people with housing code violations, people whose houses have fallen into disrepair and haven't done anything about it. Basically people who are on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum as me. Not people who are so dedicated to working on their houses that they've given up the years of their life that it takes to restore one.

I only agreed to enter this program because it gets rid of the criminal charge completely from record once the program is completed. I was told that this program takes control away from the building department and puts it in the hands of the court (I'm not sure which is the lesser of two evils here). I said to the Mayor that at any point, the court could change their mind and send it back to criminal court. His response, "but that's not going to happen, I talked to the Judge..." I was contacted by the man in charge of this program. I explained the situation to him and he said he was on my side. Basically as long as I was showing progress, (which has never been an issue considering it's an obsession of mine), I'd be fine.

However, much of this turned out to be untrue. The only person the judge cares to hear from is the building inspector, who stands next to me at the hearings. The guy running the program stands next to the inspector and agrees with whatever he says (in every case I've seen). I've taken pictures and offered them to the judge more than once and he has declined to even look at them. The inspector has said that there's basically been no progress when I have over 100 hours into something and my neighbors are commenting on how good it's looking. The judge has already threatened to kick me out of the program at the next hearing (something the Mayor assured me wouldn't happen) and I've only been in the program a few weeks. When trying to explain the common sense factor that house restoration (or car restoration or boat restoration) is something that takes years, not weeks, they don't care. I'm expected to do something that's never been done before and is not physically possible. But realistically, if it was an issue of time, then everyone who's restored a house would have been criminally charged and I wouldn't be the first and only one to go through this. In fact, I know of someone locally who is still stripping the same side of the house that they were stripping last year. On top of this, the rules seem to change at each hearing. At one hearing they are fine with something, the next they aren't. They bring up things that have nothing to do with the citation and add things they want me to do which aren't backed by any code. I was told by the judge that since I work full time, I can afford to pay someone to do this. I didn't realize that working full time meant I had thousands of dollars sitting around. I don't know anyone who's paid contractors to restore (or even strip paint off) their house. The estimates I got to fully strip and paint the house were around $30k.

In this time, several people - neighbors, auxiliary police officers, representatives of the Cleveland Restoration Society, etc have contacted the Mayor and/or building department expressing their unhappiness over this situation and support of me. Yet the city has not backed down. They've been given multiple opportunities to do the right thing and haven't. They even put down the wrong code for what they were charging me with, coming back to a chimney code violation (which I don't have). When I brought it to their attention, the prosecutor responded with, "well I'm just going to refile it and you'll have to come back here" (to court) if I wouldn't agree to let them correct it then and there. When I mentioned that "I'm not the first person to restore a house", the prosecutor responded with, "it doesn't take them two years!"  Really? I'd love to meet someone who's done it in one, especially when you subtract the 5+ months of winter/cold/rain/snow/ice. In fact, at the first hearing, everyone including the head of the building department showed up for my case. The prosecutor and head of the building department said I'm doing a "fantastic job" restoring my house to "historic likeness" but that it's taking too long. It took 100 years for all the paint, aluminum, broken/removed trim, damaged/rotted wood, etc to happen, but I should be able to undo it all in less than one.

Basically, they are saying homeowners are not allowed to restore their houses because it takes too long... unless they can afford a team of contractors to do the work. So they are discouraging historic preservation for anyone but the wealthy. If I had left it covered in ugly, faded 40+ yr old aluminum siding covering all the architectural character, they'd be happy.  I'm being punished for doing historic preservation of my house.

I think my only hope now is to bring as much attention to this as possible, in hopes that the city will get tired of the bad publicity and finally do the right thing. I think they owe me a pretty big apology and maybe some gratitude for everything I've done for them, from the work on my house to the volunteer work.

I'd appreciate if people reading this blog could forward my story to as many people as possible. Thanks for reading and please comment.

UPDATE 10/20/2011
Yesterday was my first hearing since this story has gone public. The city has received a lot of phone calls and emails complaining about this. My story has been in local media as well as all over the internet and will probably be in a couple national magazines. I had to hire an attorney to represent me. I've received tons of supportive emails and comments and I appreciate it very much. I've also received a couple donations and would like to thank those contributors.

Yesterday I went to court with four of my immediate neighbors who support me and my restoration. My attorney and I went up before the judge and he asked the inspector about the progress made since my last hearing Sept 2nd. The inspector responded with his standard, textbook response, "no progress made." I'm pretty sure I heard my neighbors (sitting behind me in the courtroom) whisper "no progress made?!" They later told me they would have been held in contempt of court "within the first five minutes" if they were in my shoes and were amazed at my composure. My attorney then told the judge that there has in fact been substantial progress made and asked to approach the bench with the photographic evidence. The judge told him to talk to the inspector about it and we were excused to go out to the hall and talk.

My attorney showed the inspector the pictures of what's been done since the last hearing. The dormer, including window jambs, has been primed (after being fully stripped which was the most difficult challenge so far in the stripping process), the storm windows replaced.  And the north side, which hadn't been touched yet at the last hearing, was fully stripped to bare wood (including the upside down bead board on the underside of the overhang and each and every bead), and cracked clapboards replaced. I have begun sanding the north side and I figure there are probably 4-5 more days of work that need to be done on that side, including priming, if it would ever stop raining.

He shows all this to the inspector and the inspector responds by saying that he doesn't consider "prep work" to be progress! Literally, that's what he said. He said only paint counts as progress. So basically, all of the hard work, the most time consuming work, the most challenging work, the most important work of all, that completely determines what the finished product will look like and how long it will last, does not count. Only the easiest, simplest, quickest, final step of all is what counts as progress. In percentages, we could probably say that 95% of this work is prep work, and the final 5% is paint.

We go back into the courtroom and the inspector states to the judge that there is a discrepancy as to what constitutes as progress and that he doesn't consider prep work to count. Thankfully, the judge and everyone else was in much better spirits. The judge even stated that I could take the following day off work and spend it painting the whole house, but without the prep work, and with the nonstop rain we're having, the paint would probably start peeling again by May. I couldn't agree more. The prosecutor told the judge that we have broken the record for the most rainfall this year. When things started to go off track, the prosecutor reminded everyone that I was only cited for peeling paint. My attorney told the judge that I hope to get the north side done before the end of this year and the entire house done by the end of next season. The judge was apparently satisfied and I was allowed to remain in the diversion program, and given the next hearing date in December.

The inspector then told the judge that he wants to be able to inspect my house without worrying about any kind of confrontation, acting as though he feared I would attack him or something. The judge asked him if there'd ever been a problem like this with me. The inspector hesitated and I honestly thought he was going to say that there had before finally admitting that there hadn't. I informed the judge that I've never even been home when he's been over to do an inspection, I've never seen him on my property ever except for the one time mentioned previously in this blog when I called him over, during which I was sitting on my front steps and calmly asked where the violation was. Also, I am a 5'3" female living alone and this guy is probably 6'4". And as mentioned, I have a security clearance (i.e. crystal clean record) and certainly have never committed any violent acts. So he told the judge that sometimes, when they do inspections, they are confronted by homeowners. The judge told him that we'll worry about those people then, and not the people who have never caused any problems.

Anyway, I've begun sanding the north side. The weather has been horrible. It rains every single day. I probably have a couple days worth of sanding to do. Then wash the side in TSP. Then hope for enough dry days for it to dry to less than 15% moisture content so I can prime.


  1. Oh my God. This is ridiculous. I feel so bad for you and your house. Is there any higher authority that could help you? I'm in Canada, so all the laws/agencies are different (I can't offer better suggestions). I wish you the best of luck!

  2. Can the National Historic Preservation Society help? Maybe Bob Yapp? If this sort of thing continues, not only will people shy away from restoring old homes but old houses will essentially be worthless because it would take a garage full of money to have the work completed by paid contractors. The way I read this is that they are saying it is basically illegal to do your own restoration because you can't work fast enough but yet their code has no time limits.

    What a waste of tax dollars.

    I will post your blog on my Facebook page and try to send off a letter or two on your behalf.

    In the meantime I would keep detailed financial records of what this is costing you. After all is said and done, I would go after your neighbor for harassment, lost $$ for court fees, lost wages, and mental stress.

    How about a sign in your yard or hang from your scaffolding that would direct people to your blog.

    I wonder if one of the cable news channels would be interested. CNN Jeannie Moos does a spot about stupid things and with everyone talking about local municipalities not having $$$ due to lower property taxes...I think this is a prime example of waste both in time and $$$.

    I feel for you.....we are stripping, too. I am embarassed to say that it has been going on for at least 4 years but we keep finding items that need fixing. Paint is the last thing.

    There is an old saying that good deed goes unpunished.

  3. Do you have any attorneys in your Restoration Society who could help you out? Sounds like you need some independent counsel.

    This does make me grateful for my tolerant and so far uncomplaining neighbors.

  4. Gary Leitzell of This Old Crack House,, is the Mayor of Dayton, OH. (I follow his blog...don't know him personally.) I'm sure he's busy, but he might be able to give you some help/advice, as he is also restoring a house.

  5. BTW...I mentioned this blog post to everyone I talked to today as we worked on our old home. Ironically, everyone said the exact same thing. Your building department and the people who work for the diversion program are just generating work to justify their jobs. With the economy in shambles no one is building new so the building inspectors are going after BS stuff to keep busy.

    I, also find it deplorable that a judge would tell anyone that since they have a full time job that they need to hire home maintenance people rather than do it themselves. This is a judge that is so far removed from the common man that it is ridiculous.

    I agree with Shasha Kidd, you need counsel. You may find that what they are doing is not acceptable and that they took advantage of you not having an attorney present.

    Good luck and I am trying to spread the word.

  6. Thank you so much JC, dynochick, Janet, and Shasha for your support. I really appreciate all that I can get.

    Dynochick, thank you for helping to get my story out. I appreciate that. And very much appreciate you sending any letters or phone calls to some of these city officials. I have thought about having a banner w/ my blog addy made and putting it on the front of my house. I am in the process of trying to get my story to the media now. And don't be embarrassed about the paint stripping. EVERYONE and I do mean every single person I talked to who has stripped the paint from their house has taken between 2-4 yrs. And there are so many things that come up, like you said, that you have to deal with before paint. Paint is the least important. Currently I have no drip edges above my windows and the edges of every window sill have been lopped off. So literally water is coming into the walls when it rains and I don't have time to deal with that real problem because I have to devote my time to stripping paint instead. The most amazing part is that the property taxes here are astronomical. And they are clearly doing things like this to try to generate more money for the city on top of it. I pay this city nearly $4k/yr in property/income tax! And now I REALLY want to know where all this money is going. Because this city is crammed with houses packed one on top of another and each one is generating multi-thousands per year in taxes. And like I've said, every structure is 100 yrs old, and many are owned by landlords who let them fall apart. There are houses with major problems. Why aren't they worrying about that BEFORE coming after people who are actively restoring their houses? Makes zero sense. And what's amazing is that they are all willing to do this. If it was just a case of a bad inspector, then it would have stopped with the Mayor, the Prosecutor, or the Judge. But they are all in on this which smells like corruption to me. At no point did any of them step up to the plate and say "no, this isn't right." That scares me.

    Shasha/dynochick, The restoration society was not able to give me any attorney referrals but I have contacted several and trying to pick one. It's a ridiculous length to have to go through when I'm already paying the city to do the right thing and they seem incapable.

    Janet, thanks for the link. I have heard of his blog but was unaware that he is the Mayor of Dayton. I will contact him.

    Again, thank you everyone for your support. It is very much appreciated. Please keep spreading the word.

  7. Yikes, Nina. I am forwarding this to the City of Cleveland for their opinion and any suggestions.

  8. Saw your comment on Gary Leitzel's blog and came over to read about your ordeal. I'd be setting up for a nail factory in your shoes, I'd be spitting so many.

    Since Gary became mayor of Dayton last year he doesn't keep up his blog the way he used to, so no telling how often he checks for new comments. Hopefully, he'll pick yours up soon and have some ideas. And for what it's worth, I've linked to this article on my Facebook page.

  9. Thank you Kate for helping spread the word and for your support. It is beyond frustrating. Especially when I consider how much money I pay to live in this city. All they've managed to do is slow me down. All the time I've had to spend dealing with this mess and going to court is time I would have been working on my house. It's been a huge setback.

  10. Hi, Nina. What an infuriating situation...!!! I have forwarded your post to Christopher Busta-Peck (Cleveland Public Library) at his Cleveland Area History blog. Surely he would have contacts within the community to assist in sorting this out. I will also post your story on my blog. Best of luck to you.

  11. Nina,

    One thing I would do is get a restraining order against your crazy neighbor to keep him out of your yard. I have read about people going to court to get restraining orders, but when I had a problem with a loon last year all I had to do was talk to the police and they issued what they called a no trespass order to keep him off my property. So those may be different things. Contrary to my expectation, the no trespass order has worked.

    I agree, if you can afford an attorney or contact legal aid that would likely be helpful. Often even the fact that an attorney is involved gets people to shape up. Plus he can put things in writing in a more formal form that would make a judge less likely to try to roll over you.

    You might contact He is in Cincinnati and has a lunatic local government as well, so he might have some ideas. He is a professional house restorer, I think.

    Thank goodness my town can't see the inside of my house.

  12. Nina, I sympathize.

    Although you are in the thick of it now, with your whole exterior underway and the legal system, it is clear for others how to keep out of this sort of situation. Do just one exterior side of the house at a time, so you can get it done and wrapped up in less time. On some projects I'm involve with, we even do the work in sections just 10 feet wide from foundation to up to the eaves, complete, before moving on to the next section. This way, the whole house is not "work under way." Of course, this doesn't help you now.

    Although your approach is good and very practical, it is completely opposite of the American Dream consumer economy, where nearly every one (except you and some of your neighbors) is brainwashed by the Madison Avenue marketing industry into believing that everyone can live like the Rich & Famous, and that immediate gratification is the "new normal." This marketing scheme is designed to force everyone, including you, to participate in the disposable consumer economy. Of course, the big corporations have the legal system and political system is setup to support the Dream and not your own reality. You have to find a way to skirt around all of that mess.

    I suggest that you appeal directly to your local friends and neighbors. Is there a way you can call on them to help you with your project? Perhaps you can get the workshop organizer to get every one to rally to your cause and have a workshop at your place to actually get some work done. Consider having your workshop organizer contact Bob Yapp. I have worked with him several times the past few years and he is one person who knows how to lead a group of workshoppers in actually getting work done on an old house in short order.

    I'm not local, but I'll help any way I can. For starters, I volunteer to be your technical adviser. I can do that via my discussion forum:

    Post messages there and I'll provide info on paint and wood issues.

    Also, I'll help by sending you a check. I work for a living too, and am not wealth by any measure, but I can help you out a little with a few dollars. Please send me your mailing address. (It might be a good idea to set up a "Donations" button here at your website. has a good system for that, and I would donate to your cause via Paypal.)

    Also, I frequently write for national publications like Old-House Journal, Period Homes, and the Practical Restoration Reports. I am working on an article about the conflict between the American Dream, the Disposable Consumer Economy, and Caring for Older Houses. With your permission I'd like to follow your case, for possible inclusion in the article. (it is not likely my article will be finished and published before you have resolved your situation) Could you get me in touch with a three of your neighbors? I'd like to interview a neighbor who thinks you are doing a great job at your place, and the one who is doing his house one side at a time, and the person who organizes the workshops you have attended. I need the name, address and phone number of each. Talk with them first to make sure it is OK for me to call them to talk about your situation. With your permission I would like to call all the city officials you list to get a statement from each.

    Take care, continue the good works, and let me know if there is any other way I could help.

    John Leeke,
    American Preservationeer
    Portland, Maine

  13. Thank you sooooo much John. I really appreciate it. I will send you an email with more information. I do have the support of all my surrounding neighbors (2 houses in front of me and one on the side of me) to the extent that they are all willing to even go to court with me. They constantly tell me what a great job I'm doing. I even have neighbors (like the one who gave me the standing ovation) who live on other streets nearby and support me. I will put together a list with contact information for them and email it to you. There are probably at least 6 people I could come up with.

    I would absolutely love it if you could contact these officials and include me in the article you are writing.

    I have talked to Bob Yapp about this and he is willing to write to the local media here on my behalf. And I've had a local major news channel call me 3 times to set up a time to come to my house with a news crew.

    I don't think it would have mattered if I had only taken siding off one side at a time, because this started when I had only removed the siding from the front. I was only working on the front of the house at the time. I took care of the few spots of peeling paint like the inspector said but he still wasn't happy (although he couldn't find a violation) and sent me to the prosecutor. So it doesn't seem to matter what route I would have taken. And I've followed several people's exterior projects, not even restoration work, that began before I even bought my house. I've talked to several people within the city who have stripped paint off their entire house and were lucky if they could get 2 sides done per year. This seems to be specifically targeted at me.

    I will email you the information you requested and thanks again for all your help. It is very much appreciated.

  14. This, folks, is what happens when government gets too big fer it's britches! Nina, I wish you all the luck in the world, be glad you're in OH and NOT ILL, which is even worse, and where I abide--I'm not sure one can "live" here anymore. The days of friendly mayors and such are gone with the wind. Here, the "international code" is being implemented. John thanks for the info--about one side or section at a time! Nina, as to the person next-door-I can sympathize, I've been there, man. Just hang tuff and "resist the dark side!" :)

  15. Hi Nina . . . Sorry to hear about your troubles. I've tried to call a bit more attention to this by posting a short article, with a link to your own article, on my website . Good luck to you! I'll be watching from afar . . . Michael

  16. It's time to take it to the media, my friend.

  17. I'm sorry you have to go through such an ordeal, just to restore your lovely home! I've put up a link to your blog on the Old House Web message board and for my FB readers and will do so shortly on my own blog. Although I do not live in Ohio, you have any support and help I can give.

  18. I agree with Linda. Take it to the media! This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard....(and I live in NW Ohio).

  19. Yes ... get the media involved. Also an attorney ... is there one the historical society uses who can help you? You are doing a wonderful thing ... keep fighting!

  20. Nina, first thing you need to do is get a restraining order against the neighbor. Second youn need local media attention, Tv and print. Public embarrasement of municipalities tend to work (especially if elections are any time soon). Third you need to consult with an attorney/ ALSO do a little research and see if the inspectors house, various council people, have similar 'issues' with there houses but havent been cited. Local media is very helpful with expose pieces like this.

  21. You deserve an award NOW! This is a depressing story, and I wish I could add support in a more helpful way. I'm in Canada and my voice would probably not matter with your administrators.

    We're also stripping siding off a 1913 house, but fortunately it's in a rural area. I will be following your blog and hope to read better news in the future.

  22. This is terrible, I agree with Paul. I am from Cincy, and the gorvornment here is auful. I applude your efforts and Paul's to both of you keep up the good work.

  23. I will be sending a letter to all of the above sometime this week. Will keep you in my thoughts & prayers

  24. This is wild! I can't believe it. Good luck with your neighbor, the City and your house!

  25. Thank you everyone for your support and comments. I appreciate it. This is a very frustrating and overwhelming experience for me and it definitely helps to get so many comments and emails of encouragement from everyone. It helps me to remember that they are the bad guys here and I have to keep fighting for what's right.

    I appreciate anyone taking the time to contact my city officials and letting them know your opinion about this situation. And I appreciate people spreading the word. My blog visits have spiked tremendously and people around the world are reading this story.

    We have an excellent community of preservationists around the country (and the world apparently) and I definitely appreciate the support. Keep up the good work on your own projects.

  26. It's probably no coincidence that this post titled, "Historic Preservation - Good Start and More Work To Do" was posted today on Lakewood's blog.

    Maybe are going to try to fix their issues so there are no more mistakes like what they've done to me. The blog says they are welcoming comments but will not let you post publicly on the blog (a bit suspicious) and comments must be emailed to them at

    If you could, send them a quick email explaining that prosecuting people for historic preservation is not the way to go about "encouraging" it.

  27. you're doing a beautiful job. Keep the faith. As I mentioned on the blog that brought me here... if you had torn this house down and put up something new, using inferior materials you would have probably had an easier time. I'm sorry for your trouble, but your reward will be the finished product. I love the doors

  28. Such absurdity. Especially from the neighbor. I hope at the end of the day - you get the desired results you want. I will keep aware of your ongoing situation and progress.



  29. This is an outrage. We have one neighbor (across the street) who complains to everybody and anybody about everything we do. This is a small town so of course we hear about it. She has even used her political connections to prevent us from getting a variance for a safer, more period appropriate driveway, among other things. I am posting this to Facebook.

  30. I feel for you and your local strugles with the township officials... I would contact every possible source of media and start a campaign to bring these idiots to light in the local/national media. Might even try contacting that guy you know on TV Move that Bus Todd...

  31. Ridiculous. Utterly asinine, idiotic, and in all other ways, beyond completely stupid. When you get done restoring the house, it will look like it did in 1914 and probably last a lot longer than it would have if the aluminum siding had remained. Your house will be one that Lakeland can be very proud of, when you get done with it.

    I agree with another commentor that it might have been less of a draw to violations if you'd only restored one side of the house at a time, but you're in the middle of it and can't quit now! Keep going and know that you have a lot of people rooting for you.

    I've already shared your story on Facebook. The more people know how asinine the elected officials are in Lakeland, the less likely they are to stay elected officials.

  32. I meant LakeWOOD, don't know how I came up with LakeLand! Sorry!

  33. Thank you everyone for your support. I do appreciate it very much.

    Susan- This all began when I had only removed the siding from the front of the house and was still working on the front. So in my case, it really wouldn't have mattered. They were determined to come after me regardless of what I was doing or how I was doing it.

    Thank you to everyone who is sending emails to the city and to the media. I have been contacted by several media sources now.

    Please keep it up. The words of encouragement are keeping me going. Please continue to forward my story to as many people as possible, to media outlets, post it on websites, whatever you can think of. Thanks again.

  34. I just want to say that I've been amazed with the people who have reached out to me, sending me emails and posting on my blog to offer support. One thing I've learned through all of this is that there are some very good people in this world, willing to stand up and fight for what's right. It's been an enlightening experience for me. I don't get out much since I spend all my free time working on my house, and didn't realize there were still so many wonderful people out there.

    At the advice of some, I have removed the information about the long history of ongoing criminal harassment by the one neighbor who instigates all this. I could probably write a whole book on that alone. In reality, it is a separate legal issue and shouldn't matter in this case since this is really a matter between the city and I.

    Thanks again for the support and keep it coming. I do appreciate it.

  35. Have you considered simply going to trial? Plead not guilty and demand a jury trial. Once you tell your story to your fellow residents at trial, I believe they will find you not guilty.

  36. You have a good point. When I agreed to do this, I believed that because I consistently work on the house to the extent that my body is in extreme pain (then take Motrin and do some more), that this diversion program would work as they had explained it to me. I thought it would be the best option since it would erase the criminal charge completely. Now I wonder if going to trial wouldn't have been the better option as there is no way in hell 1 person, let alone 12, would have thought this was ok. Judging by the reaction I get from everyone who knows about this, I am pretty confident I'd be found not guilty too.

  37. I've had similar problems with the Lakewood court and building department. I have found them both to be very unreasonable. The judge will just accept anything the building inspector says. I wish I could afford to sell my house and move out of Lakewood.

  38. Actually, from what I've seen in court, that is happening. There was someone who was going to sell on short sale because they couldn't meet the unrealistic expectations of the city.

  39. Nina we are neighbors of yours..We applaud you for the tremendous amount of effort and dedication you put into the restoration of your home. You should be used as a prime example of how home owners should take care of their property. The energy just never ceases to amaze me....When I heard about all the political mess you are enduring, we just have to scratch our heads and wonder what kind of people really run our city? Annonomous real pointed out a good point with how to go about getting a jury trial...You wouldn't even need legal representation....You could win your own case with all the followers and proof....I already contacted the housing board commending you on the progress of your home in such a short amount of time and almost single handedly. Even while the house is undergoing renovtion you keep up with the rest of your property....Its always neat looking..Definitely a joy to watch the daily progress.. Unfortunately I am getting to realize more and more what kind of a city Lakewood has become...How are they going to want more people to restore their homes when every where they turn there are road blocks stopping and or even prosecuting people for any work they do or want to do. I will be mailing the building dept. as well and will continur to call and leave positive reports on the tremendous progress you make daily on your home...Keep up the good work..We are rooting for you...If you need representation moral support and witnesses count us in!!!! We are right behind you

  40. I can't come to Lakewood to help Nina out personally, so I clicked on the "Donate" button above and kick in 50 bucks. I encourage others to do the same, in any amount.

    John Leeke

  41. Thank you John for the donation, I really appreciate it.

    And thanks Bea and Al for the comment and your continuing support.

  42. Greetings Nina,
    I am a Historic Preservationist from Michigan and will gladly write some letters of support for you. I wish I could do more. Have you ever tried to contact the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office to see if they can assist you? I would recommend that if you have not already; they may even have an attorney on their board that could assist you, it's possible!

    The absurdity and ignorance of government officials never ceases to astound me.

    I wish you all the best and know that what is fair and right WILL prevail here. Blessings, Amanda Davis

  43. Thank you Amanda. I have contacted every historic/preservation office in the country I think at this point. I am still waiting to hear back from some. I really appreciate you sending letters on my behalf.

    Anybody who's stripped their entire house of paint (and also synthetic siding if possible), I'd love to hear how long it took. Everyone I've talked to has taken several years and I'm trying to get a list together.

    1. Nina, I did not have to remove any vinyl or aluminum siding, but just stripping, sanding, priming and painting the exterior of my Craftsman Foursquare took 18-hour days from March to November a few years ago. I've done nothing before or since that was more gratifying. You hang in there!

  44. Here in Washington State we have a law that says that the laws must be applied evenly and that they can't just be applied when someone complains or when the gov't wants to pick on someone. Most people don't know much about it. You may want to see if your state has the same law. Years ago, I was involved in fighting against a large park in Seattle in which the City and all the people with money were for the park and all the small family owned businesses that would be displaced were against it. The city started to enforce rules against signs that were anti the park, and didn't do anything about the signs that were for it and many other signs in the city that didn't comply with the rules. That was proven to be illegal and the city either had to enforce the laws evenly or they couldn't enforce any of them. You may find that the city isn't allowed to selectively enforce the rules against you if they aren't enforcing them against everyone. Check into selective enforcement or selective prosecution. Good luck fighting the fight. I really appreciate a nicely restored house and know how much time, energy and money goes into it. The city should be doing everything to help you improve their city!


    My story on Lakewood Patch.


    My story came out in the Cleveland Scene today.

  47. I'm the owner of an old house that I'm restoring and thought I'd share some of my observations and experiences.

    When it comes to scraping old paint I'm an Olympic contender. I can safely say that it takes about 30 minutes per square foot to complete just the routine areas of the exterior. That estimate includes setup, paint removal, filling, priming, caulking, cleanup, and painting.

    When rotten exterior wood is found then all bets are off since internal structure must almost always be replaced too. Repair times will vary depending on the degree of deterioration and the complexity of fabricating replacement components that will both bear the load from the structure above and provide adequate support for exterior sheathing. As a rough estimate the time to complete these renovations will be easily fourfold the 20 minutes per square foot required to simply restore the exterior surface.

    Where sheathing surface conditions are severely compromised, but reparable, 40 minutes may required per board. An example of this condition would be where the tongue and grove lumber has shrunk and opened up a large gap that must be closed up or where exfoliation has occurred.

    Because of the size of my house economy must often supersede personal comfort so the old fashioned paint scrapper is the weapon of choice more often than not. The Wagner Paint Eater does a good job and speeds up the process but the discs wear out too quickly. I chose not to use other mechanical strippers because of the age of the lumber and the grove that is cut in each piece. Additionally I am trying to comply with some of the things I've read that frown on removing excess surface areas from the original material.

    Windows require at least three to four hours each to strip, prime, seal, and paint (unless they need to be totally re-glazed or extensive repair work is necessary then six to eight hours may be necessary).

    Carpentry is complicated by the fact that the lumber was sized differently in the last part of the 19th century and early part of the 20th. All replacement planking had to be custom milled to 7/8" thickness and with a custom tongue and grove. All replacement decorative trim is hand-made using a router, table saw, hand saws, and sanders. Each set of three pieces takes about 3 hours to build. I have created 8 sets so far and expect that at least 5 more sets will be required. All quarter-round trim must also be laboriously hand manufactured.

    I have rebuilt at least 8 corbels which are roughly 18 inches by 18 inches and contain numerous intricate curves. Each one, on average, takes about 4 hours to remove, rebuild, prime, paint and replace. I expect at least 5 more will be needed to be removed and overhauled and another dozen to be repaired "in place."

    My home was built with Box Gutters so I spend a lot of time repairing them too. There are seams every 8 feet that expand and contract in the hot Georgia sun and eventually leak. Fixing them has been one of my biggest frustrations. The work is dangerous, dirty, very labor intensive, and costly.

    Unrecorded above are the countless hours spent planning, reading up on restoration techniques, gathering materials, buying tools and books, rebuilding components using epoxy and other fillers, and maintenance of tools and equipment.

    On average I work about at least 30 hours per week in my spare time (time over and above my normal 11 hour work day at the office). On a three day weekend it is not unusual to spend 36 hours working on the house.

    I am fortunate in that much of what I have done up until this spring was easily accessible because a covered porch gives me access to roughly half of the second story. The area I'm working on now is all done on scaffolds which took at least 15 hours to erect, brace, and reinforce.

    After three years of very hard labor, considerable expense, minor injuries, and much wear and tear on body and mind I have completed about 15 percent of the exterior with much of the hardest work yet to be done.

  48. I stripped down my 1892 house and found varnish that tool me 5 years to achieve the painting. In the process I was traumatized in the same fashion as you. It was a neighbor who complained.
    When I received the 30 day citation only 15 days was left before they haul my ass off to court! I have to hurry and so lesser of a restoration. Hang in there, we feel for you, let's hope those of us who love these grand buildings will never have to suffer for what we proudly call our labor of love. It is never right to have others do this for you, then it is not really what you can claim credit for. Thanks to Scene for letting us become aware of your issue.

  49. This whole situation is completely surreal and Kafkaesque I really admire your strength of character. It might be worthwhile to contact your state representative and state senator. They may be able to bring some political pressure on the city.

  50. Your Blog is AMAZING! It is a fantastic legal document to show, not only your work plan, but also all of the work you HAVE accomplished. Anyone negating the work you have captured in this format, and snidely telling you that you should be working on your house instead of blogging, misses the value of this document. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

  51. Thank you Jessica. I am very fortunate that I have this blog and all the written and photographic evidence of the progress made on the house. I do not blog often, not nearly as much as most of the house bloggers I know, but I do keep the photos updated. It's always nice to look at before an after pictures of any challenge, especially one as large as this.

    Thank you to others sharing their stories as well. I have gotten a lot of emails from other victims of Lakewood and it's unbelievable. But nice to know I'm not alone. Hopefully my story will be a big step in fixing the problems in this city.

    I have yet to hear from anyone who has stripped an entire house (much less removed synthetic siding first with all the problems that creates) in less time than I have. The numbers I have so far start at 4 years and up.

    Obviously the reason normal cities and restoration societies give awards for this is because they recognize the hard word, dedication, and time given to a historic preservation project. If it was something that was simple and fast, why would there be awards for it? It'd be something we'd EXPECT everyone to do. But you see very few people doing it. There would be no such thing as vinyl siding and historic architecture wouldn't be demolished at such a rate if you could just take a couple months and restore a historic building/house. There wouldn't be tax incentives and government agencies centered on historic preservation if it was something so simple. People are willing to cover their house in inferior plastic, at a huge expense and the diminished look of their home, just to avoid doing this work. It's certainly not expensive to do restoration. Some knowledge, paint, sandpaper, scrapers, and tools are all you need. But one thing any kind of restoration is known for is the tremendous amount of time required. So there really is no logic in their argument.

    I do appreciate everyone's support. My next hearing is soon. I will give an update afterward.

  52. Hi Nina

    I feel your pain, I'm going through almost exactly the same thing here in NY. I'm restoring my 1892 colonial and I'm on my third violation/notice, received in June. I Saw the inspector in July and got an "extension" to mid Aug. Never went back and I'm not exactly done... I figure I'm at least 3 years out from completion.

    I'm getting really frustrated, I'm not sure what I'll do if it hits the fan and I have to go to court. If worse comes to worse, the house isn't worth much more than the mortgage, I'd be tempted to strip it and have the last laugh as it becomes a crackhouse for probably longer than it would take me to finish it.

    Good luck, I'll be following your progress and I'll write a letter for you.


  53. Mike, I'm sorry to hear about your situation. It's unbelievable that there are govts like mine, yours, and one of the anonymous posters above that are discouraging historic preservation and the bettering of the neighborhood, increase in property values, etc.

    So much stupidity. You go to Europe and almost all the architecture there is historic, much older than ours, and it all survived because they take care of it and that's just normal. Our structures here are new compared to what they have, yet so many are being torn down because nobody is taking care of them, and this is what happens to some of us who try to do the right thing.

    New construction will never be built to anywhere near the same quality as the historic architecture, and won't last half as long. Once these houses and buildings are gone, that's it. We don't ever get anything this nice again. The resources simply aren't available.

    How long have you worked on yours? This all started the moment I began the exterior work on mine.

    Thank you for writing a letter on my behalf. I appreciate it.

  54. Very short sighted of your city government, they should be giving you a grant, not harassing you.

    I think it is just like John Leeke said, the consumer mentality and people being used to to the vinyl going up in a day or two by an army of low skilled illegal aliens. After work many people who ascribe to the low maintenance philosophy can't imagine doing this kind of work, probably don't even cut their own grass. I enjoy getting up on the scaffold after sitting on an office chair all day staring at a computer screen, and doing some painting. It is my therapy. As property owners it is our right.

    I try and work in sections but sometimes when a dumpster is available, I'll make maximum use and strip as much "mineral" shingle as I can and pack it in there.

    I started approx Aug 2006 and got my first violation mid 2007, for the front porch. It was in bad shape, they were just preaching to the choir, I was planning out the project when the notice arrived so I had to rush. It came out OK but there are a few things I'd have done differently had I been left alone. Check out my blog, I've got a lot of photos on there.


  55. WOW- as a Fellow Lakewood Resident, this whole thing stinks.

  56. Your story just makes my blood boil. Like there aren't enough other things for your local government officials to do?
    We started stripping paint off our 1850's farmhouse last Spring. We got the front and one gable end done before winter. Well, actually, the really high part of the gable end isn't done as we didn't have a ladder tall enough and I'm figuring at the end we can rent a lift and do both ends. We got a late start on the back side (about August) and may not get it done before the end of painting season, but I'm hopeful. If we lived in a wacky town like yours we would totally be in violation of something. We fight with the Conservation Commission here who once fined us $300 for moving rocks from a stone wall that needed rebuilding into a place they deemed unacceptable (about 100 feet away)and had to beg for extensions to get the wall rebuilt because that too does not happen in one day!
    Keep fighting! The more media exposure the better. And you know and we all know you are doing the right thing.

  57. Historic preservation should be abolished! It has become nothing more than thinly-veiled aesthetic zoning and a power grab by people who think they know more than you do about how to maintain your home.

    I lead the fight against conservation zoning in my neighborhood. We lost because our council person at the time rammed it through in spite of majority opposition. Most of the people who promoted it in our 'hood had not lived here very long and moved out within a year or two of its passage.

    Luckily for me, I did all my exterior renovations / improvements before we had this horrible type of zoning. Including an addition that is so good and authentic that no one knows it is an addition.

    And, btw, for that very reason, such an addition is DISALLOWED under CZ guidelines because, BY LAW, you have to be able to tell which is the original house and which is the addition. If that isn't counter-intuitive to everything else those board members think they stand for, I don't know what is.

  58. Just a thought: how much money have contractors, etc., contributed to the election campaigns of the officious officials involved? Is there a conflict of interest here?

  59. I owned a house in Boston and had a very similar situation only they tried to drag my two year old into court. I ended up in court three times and finally got the case dismissed with prejudice after making the city lawyer look like a fool. What you have is someone with a little drag who is complaining. Good like I sold.

  60. I forwarded your story on to the "Institute for Justice," a libertarian legal defense group, which specializes in this sort of thing ( Hopefully, they will take up your case. This is a blatant example of government regulation harming the people it is purported to help.

  61. This is bullshit. We have an area of town here in Jacksonville, Fl. that is a federally protected landmarked area. It is nothing more than a crack den and yet the city will give you an imense amount of grief anytime you try to update anything. I finally gave up and sold the houses I had there.

  62. Ever think of petitioning for a few new faces in your city government? With all of this, it sounds like someone needs to stand in the unemp. line. Best of luck to you.

  63. As already stated several times, this is a prime example of "Government Gone Wild". With the example that is being set by the President & the people in Washington, I'm hearing more and more of local government tring to take more control and are following the White House example.

    I like the suggestions of getting the media involved, even 60 Minutes. Perhaps, even a TV station in your state that loves to expose bad government.

    As far as your neighbor, bring a personal lawsuit against him for mental harrassment and/or anything else the lawyer recommends. First and foremost, get an attorney who is not in cahoots with the city, perhaps one in a nearby town or state. Do your research though and make sure you get a good one.

    Last but not least, we need to reform Government from the TOP DOWN in 2012. That is the only way anything will change. WE THE PEOPLE must prevail against the bureaucratic nightmares such as the one you have.

    Best to you as you struggle against "government gone wild".

  64. Dena M (from Richmond, VA)October 23, 2011 at 4:57 PM

    Glad to hear a somewhat positive update on the situation. Pulling for you here in Richmond, VA! The work you are doing is important and good. Your government officials are prime examples of what is not important and good. - Dena

  65. Anonymous, while I am very disappointed in Obama, the Republicans in Congress, who vowed to defeat any bill Obama put forth so as to cause his loss in 2012, are a pretty good example of "government gone wild."

    Back to the topic, I am glad to read the judge sounds sensible.

  66. I feel very sorry for what you have experienced with your local officials.

    Having worked as a master craftsman and contractor on many historic preservation projects, when working outside and in a highly visible area I have utilized the following methods to avoid unwanted attention.

    For example I would work to expose the first window... cut back siding, create repair drip caps, prime / paint drip cap, remove existing drip cap and replace, strip window and prime / paint. By this time you have manufactured all the replacement materials required for the other windows. Cut back the siding one window at a time and install and paint each one. This way the most you have exposed at one time is a single window. Then strip siding from the top down, sanding replacing and putty, and priming what you can do in your work period (weekend). This way you are finishing what you start on a regular basis showing progress.

    Work only one section of one side at a time and finish what you start as quickly as time and weather permits. Use the rainy days to do projects under cover for example priming / paint new siding, storm windows, remove a set of window sash at a time and use a fake one piece window frame with plexiglass, and rehang curtains, in it while you work your way around the house start with the biggest so you can cut down your plexiglass for the next size. OK, you get the idea how to deal with being to visible. Remember time is of the essence so make everything you can look done.

    Since you already have their attention. Document each days work with date stamped photos and a log of weather conditions such as rain, snow, temp, the visits by neighbors and comments... I'd probably start a journal for visitors to date, comment and sign.

    Finally, always always always pick up all your construction debris several times a day. For example, when you strip siding, every time you take a break or quite for the day clean up and load your siding for disposal out of view. Never never never use pictures with debris in them to document progress.

    Sit down in your evenings after work and put together a exterior restoration plan, window by window, side by side... into your weekend and vacation projects. Even create a schedule barchart for each task and keep it updated. For example if you thought restoring a window takes 1 day and it turns out to be really 3 by the time its all painted and back in, then update all the future windows or projects accordingly. This with the written documentation and photos is proof of progress and an attempt to keep your house in the best condition possible during its restoration.

    I'd even contact your local high school and see if they have a building trades program. I'd take a sample of siding and tools to their class and give a restoration demo on a mock up with the instructors help. You may be able to get a whole class full of help and an instructor to strip and paint under your direction for a small donation to the program. The kids learn restoration as a trade and you get help and during the summer you might even be able to hire a couple of the best workers for help.

    I hope these ideas will help others avoid the same fate as you. If you can show them each phase of the project is getting finished in small sections you may even be able to bring the judge around.

    Best Wishes and I love the work your doing!

  67. Nina, I would also get in touch with your/our congressman. What you are going through is insane. I live on social security, or I would donate to your cause in a heart beat. I will still try to come up with a fundraiser to help you with your attorney fees.

  68. I'm really glad to hear that you were able to retain counsel and that your hearing went well, for the most part. I still can't believe the headaches you've had to endure. It makes me feel extremely fortunate that we had the resources to quickly restore the exterior of our house. Good luck!

    Thanks for sharing photos of your restoration here on your blog. I've enjoyed following it.

  69. Nina, Not sure what area of Lakewood your house is in but as crazy as this sounds...maybe the city doesn't want your neighborhood restored. It seems like they are attempting to frustrate you out..And oh yeah, how sad. Lakewood needs all the restoration it can get at any cost..That inspector should spend more time dealing with houses and garages that are falling down and true eye sores....Good Luck!

  70. This is crazy.Why didn't everyone just leave you a lone to do what you want with YOUR house.Restoring a old home takes lots of time and money.How dare they butt their noses in where they don't belong.But thanks to your story I now know NEVER to buy a home that close to people.

  71. It's absolutely ridiculous to target someone who is doing things "the right way." To think that slapping some paint on the house without doing any prep work at all, or hiding the mess behind new siding would have satisfied the inspector shows how far removed he is from the realities of restoration.

  72. I know I haven't posted in awhile. I've been extremely busy finishing up the North side. I got it all stripped, repaired, sanded, washed, and primed. I now want to work on repairing the edges of the window sills that were lopped off when the aluminum was installed, and the drip caps above the windows. I had new drip caps custom milled in Cyprus and they are primed and ready to install. The fun will be removing the old and installing w/o breaking the clapboard that it slides behind. I'm trying to focus more on my indoor projects right now.

    I just wanted to thank everyone again for all the support. Even though this is the most absurd thing imaginable, a lot of good has come from it. I now have a great relationship with my neighbors. We spend time together, go out to eat, and they've even risked their lives to help me set up/take down scaffolding. I've had even more neighbors come by, from seeing my story, to offer their support. So I've met a lot more surrounding neighbors. A lot more people know about the ongoing criminal issues with the one problem neighbor (even though I removed that aspect of the story from this blog). It's always good, when you are dealing with someone like that, to let as many people know as possible. A lot of people in the city already knew, especially police and neighbors, but now a lot more are aware.

    I know my story has inspired some to sell their Lakewood house, others to reconsider moving here, and a lot more to never even consider buying here. I have heard from countless people (who have had their own problems with the building dept over ridiculous issues) that if the market allowed it, they would sell their house and get out of Lakewood. I imagine if the housing market turned around tomorrow, Uhaul would be sold out and half of Lakewood would be moving out. It's a shame that that's what it's come to.

    Currently, a few houses down from me, they are demolishing 4 waterfront large historic houses to build ultra modern condos. Down the street a bit, they are demolishing a historic theater to move the McDonalds to a new location not far from where it's already at. There have been protesters standing outside the theater in protest of the demo. The city doesn't seem to care about what's in the best interest of the city or the concerns of the citizens when it comes to historic preservation.

    Thanks again to all my readers and all your support.

  73. Nina, how are things going with the house??? Hope things have been going OK.

  74. Read your story in Old House Journal. Glad to see you're still making progress and that you haven't given up hope. This should be a textbook example of how cities should NOT run their housing inspection department. Best of luck!

  75. We also read your story in Old House Journal. We had a similar situation occur with our house, the building inspector, and some harassing and vengeful neighbors. But, since I'm an attorney, we fired back, via a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act, seeking the identity of the complainant. If you are interested in further details, please let us know - we're happy to talk with you or your lawyer regarding our strategy, experience and results.

    1. Thank you. I would love to hear more about your situation. You can contact me at

  76. Thanks for reminding me why I will no longer work in Lakewood. I am a masonary contrctor and chimney sweep and by now Lakewood probably requires a permit to park a truck in your driveway !

  77. I hope the situation is taken care of now. As an aspiring preservationist, it is bad enough that one becomes a house martyr to fix up a nice old house, but to be punished for doing it right is just horrible. I remember reading about this a couple of years ago, and just happened across your blog today following a thread from RetroRenovation. All I can say is hurrah for what you have done to save one old house and shame on the city officials harassing you.

  78. I would love to see the progress (and perhaps even a final picture) of your house. I have lived in and renovated a Foursquare in Winnipeg, MB Canada and it took 4 years with two of us working on it (plus working full time and 2 little kids to manage). I hope that things have settled for you!


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