Good fences make good neighbors (unless the garage is taller)

Garrison Keillor is suing his neighbor to try to stop her from building a garage. The lawsuit claims the addition would “obstruct the access of light and air to the Nilsson-Keillor property” and “impair or destroy protected historical resources.” Both homes rest in the Ramsey Hill Historical District neighborhood in St. Paul.

And while I can see the drawback of having a stucco garage pop up 8 feet from your second story window, the Strib says Keillor had ample time and opportunity to object. Now it’s up to the courts, although again, the city and Heritage Preservation Commission already held the hearings and gave their approval.

I think the bigger question — above Mr. Woe-b-gone’s access to light and air — is about changing history (and this is what I’m guessing his lawsuit will be based).

Should people living in historical districts keep their house exactly like it was/is, or is it okay to build a garage? What if the Heritage Preservation Commission ok’s first?

I’m sure many of these ancient houses didn’t have a kitchen or indoor toilet at some point. Neighbors let other neighbors add on those. What about drilling into the home to install cable? A satellite on the roof obstructing the beauty of the antique shingles? Planting a new tree that will offer/infringe shade upon multiple homes in the next 20 years?


6 Comments so far

  1. Aliecat (unregistered) on January 15th, 2008 @ 11:30 am

    Dear god, maybe he’s pissed because he has NO YARD. Yikes.

  2. Joe (unregistered) on January 16th, 2008 @ 12:57 pm

    Somebody call the wambulence!

  3. Heather K (unregistered) on January 16th, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

    Something very similar happened to my boss years ago in St. Paul. Joe Soucheray even interviewed him and wrote a few articles about it.

    In short, the City Council told my boss’s neighbors that they’d be happy to look into issuing an order to keep him from building the garage. The Council cautioned, however, that if my boss decided to sue, the petitioners would be held personally responsible for any damages won (plus court costs). The petitioners withdrew.

  4. ranty (unregistered) on January 20th, 2008 @ 9:27 pm

    Hrmmmm. I don’t know anything about the particular district in which these folks live… however, my entire block is a historic district (in Minneapolis,) constructed mostly in the late 1800s. And guess what?

    Not only do many of the homes have garages, but in fact the original ones (there are a few) are TWO-STORY carriage houses. The one across from me even has a cupola on top, *further* blocking my access to the rising sun… (how DARE they?!)

    So I’m not really sure how a garage in and of itself compromises a historic district…

  5. fkaJames (unregistered) on January 21st, 2008 @ 10:29 am

    Sorry to be a party-pooper here, and I know there are those who will vehemently disagree with me, but I don’t understand the bizarre obsession with “historic preservation,” particularly in residential neighborhoods. Hire a good photographer, take a few hundred photographs for a memory book, then tear the drafty, poorly constructed, saggy money pits down and build something new that will last another hundred USEFUL years.

    What is the obsession with saving old things? It’s like that hoarding disease that some people get where they literally save every newspaper they’ve ever bought, every old pot or pan, every shredded piece of clothing from their childhoods. Old buildings can be nice (I live in a 71 year-old house), but at some point function has to win out over form — or is everyone else wealthy enough to have lots of white elephants sitting around to look at? I’m sure as hell not blessed with the disposable income to cover that, nor the inclination to favor uselessness over usefulness.

    And on the specific topic of “the Nilsson-Keillor property,” I’m also very tired of minor celebrities (most of whom seem to be unjustly celebrated) using their money and influence to make something happen (or, in this case, stop something from happening) just because THEY WANT IT TO. Apparently Mr. Keillor feels his desires are more important than everyone else’s; I disrespectfully disagree. My desire, for example, is for Mr. Keillor to fall down a well and never be heard from again, but I don’t go filing lawsuits and bitching and moaning to try to make it happen, because I know that, despite my desires, I DON’T GET TO CONTROL OTHER PEOPLE. That’s a lesson I wish people like Mr. Keillor would have been taught at some point in their lives.

  6. Erica M (unregistered) on January 21st, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

    To James point, I’d be inclined towards a knee-jerk anti-Keillor response, regardless of the actual issue at hand.

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