GREENSBORO — Part of the historic mansion previously featured on the television show "Hoarders" can become a bed and breakfast, a Superior Court judge has ruled. 

The ruling by Judge Eric Morgan of Forsyth County reverses the city Zoning Commission's decision to deny the special-use permit that property owners needed to operate in the single-family residential district of Fisher Park.

Owners Michael and Eric Fuko-Rizzo, who run E&V Properties, want to operate a bed and breakfast in the historic Julian Price house they rejuvenated at 301 Fisher Park Circle.

At the zoning commission's May 20 meeting, some neighbors voiced concerns about parking and noise.

When the commission denied the permit in a 4-3 vote, the Fuko-Rizzos appealed to Superior Court. Morgan heard the case on Oct. 7.

In Thursday's ruling, Morgan ordered that the matter be returned to the zoning commission "with the instruction that petitioner's special use permit ... shall be issued forthwith by the Greensboro Zoning Commission." 

Those who opposed the permit, he wrote, "only provided speculative assertions, and general opinions, and there is no competent, material and substantial evidence" that the permit should not be granted.

The permit, Morgan ruled, will include three added conditions to which property owners and a subcommittee of the Fisher Park Neighborhood Association previously agreed — to maintain guest records and make them available to the zoning administrator; to locate required parking on site and to prohibit bands, DJs, amplified speakers or instruments outdoors at any time or indoors after 10 p.m.

The zoning commission will comply with the judge's order, Deputy City Attorney Terri Jones said in a news release Friday.

The commission will approve the special use permit at its Monday meeting, the release said.

The Fuko-Rizzos bought the property in September 2016 and have since have cleaned up and rejuvenated the mansion and its 1.6 acres.

They moved into part of the 31-room, 90-year-old house with their 4-year-old twin daughters in June.

They want to rent out five remaining bedrooms to guests.

The house has quite a history.

Known as Hillside, the brick and half-timbered mansion was built in 1929 for Julian Price, the president of Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Co.

It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Guilford County’s list of historically significant properties.

For years, its beauty was hidden under overgrown foliage and clutter, accumulated by then-owner Sandra Cowart. Cowart lost the house to foreclosure, and the Fuko-Rizzos purchased it.

In January 2017, the A&E television reality show "Hoarders" aired an episode filmed there.

More than 1.2 million households watched the drama unfold as crews emptied the house of Cowart's possessions. The episode has aired several times since, and an update aired in April.

The Fuko-Rizzos have since restored its former glory.

City staff and the city's Historic Preservation Commission had recommended the special-use permit. The latter said that a bed-and-breakfast would be compatible with the goal of the long-term preservation of the house.

At the May zoning hearing, the Fisher Park Neighborhood Association board spoke in favor of the permit, with conditions.

But about eight residents spoke against it, voicing concerns about parking and noise.

The owners agreed it would not be an event center, a fear expressed by neighbors after a November 2018 wedding and a holiday event.

A special event center, where people pay to hold events, would require the zoning to be changed to commercial.

Owners agreed to comply with the zoning rules for bed-and-breakfasts in a residential neighborhood.

The city's land development ordinance also requires that it not be within 400 feet of a rooming house or other bed-and-breakfast, it allows no more than six guest rooms, the owner or operator must live on site, and guests can't stay longer than 15 days within a 60-day period.

The owners agreed to more conditions: to make guest records available to the zoning administrator, to locate required parking on site, and to prohibit bands, DJs, amplified speakers or instruments outdoors at any time or indoors after 10 p.m.

In his conclusions, Morgan wrote the property owners had shown that they were entitled to a special-use permit.

The zoning commission's denial, he wrote, "did not find facts in opposition to the issuance that were based on competent, material and substantial evidence." 

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Contact Dawn DeCwikiel-Kane at 336-373-5204 and follow @dawndkaneNR on Twitter.

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