After more than two years of unsuccessful appeals, Paul and Milari Madison received another chance to win a demolition permit for their historic Waterford home, when a Loudoun County Circuit Court judge appointed an outside commissioner to reevaluate the case.
Judge Thomas D. Horne ruled that the couple's permit application, which was denied in 2003 by the county zoning administrator and subsequently by the Board of Zoning Appeals, improperly relied on a determination by the county's building code official about whether the house was in "such an unsafe condition that it would endanger life or property."
That determination is critical to whether a permit can be granted in a historic district, as spelled out by zoning codes. The judge said in his Aug. 29 decree that the assessment should have been made by the zoning administrator, not by the building code official. A date has not been set for the case to be reviewed again, this time by Deborah C. Welsh, a Leesburg lawyer.
The two-story house at 40153 Janney St. is known locally as the Simms House. Lizzie Simms, an assistant teacher at the former Second Street School for black children nearby, lived in the house for more than 50 years.
The couple bought the house in 2003 for $185,000 after the previous owners abandoned efforts to restore it.
The Madisons first submitted proposals to expand the 1,350-square-foot farmhouse into a 3,600-square-foot three-bedroom house, but they were denied by the county's Historic District Review Committee, which said the plans were too big and would not fit in with the neighborhood. That decision was upheld by the Board of Supervisors.
Milari Madison said that the couple also requested the demolition permit early on, as "a backup" measure, but that it has resulted only in denials and appeals.
"It's gone on and on and on," she said.
The cycle of lawsuits is not likely to end anytime soon, however, even if the Madisons are finally awarded the demolition permit.
They filed a new lawsuit Tuesday, this one calling on the Circuit Court to invalidate the historic district of Waterford. They argue that the district was improperly established. Paul Madison, a corporate lawyer, is handling the case himself.
Melinda M. Artman, the county's zoning administrator, has filed her own lawsuit against the Madisons, arguing that the couple should be ordered to maintain the house, which is missing parts of its roof, rather than letting it fall into disrepair while the cases are pending.
Madison said she and her husband bought in the historic district intending to fix up the house.
"I really did think the house could be saved," she said. "Instead of being a dilapidated shell, it could be turned into a viable residence."
But now she said that she thinks the house would be too expensive to restore and that they are mainly interested in leveling it and starting over.