Thursday, November 5, 2009
Carmel voters said a resounding ‘Yes’ to the sale of the Flanders Mansion Tuesday.
The landslide 64 percent approval of Measure I is a victory for Carmel Mayor Sue McCloud and the City Council in their decade-long dispute with ardent preservationists.
The seven-bedroom English Tudor Revival, located in Carmel’s Mission Trail Park, was built in 1924 by San Francisco architect Henry Higby Gutterson. It’s one of just two city properties to appear on the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Resources.
“It’s a jewel,” Foundation President Melanie Billig says of the mansion with views of the Carmel Mission and Point Lobos. “All [McCloud] sees is a cash cow.”
But McCloud considers the place a money pit, reckoning it would cost $2.25 million to bring the mansion up to code. “It needs a new roof. It has no functioning heat or lights.” she says. “Why doesn’t [Billig] buy it?”
The debate made for a 43 percent election-day turn-out on a single ballot question. By Tuesday afternoon, poll workers at two Sunset Center precincts had run out of ballots, and county workers delivered hundreds more.
“We voted to sell,” Richard Kreitman said as he and his wife left the polls. “It would be nice to see the property used as someone’s home and not be a constant drain on the city’s resources.”
The former home of Carmel land developer Paul Flanders has historically been a lightning rod. For years, Flander’s heirs fought to subdivide the property. In 1972, the family gave up and sold the city more than 15 acres, which now make up about half of Carmel Mission Trail Park.
Preservationists argue that a sale of the home would restrict access to the park and potentially damage the nearby native plant garden and arboretum.
“It’s time to resolve it and move on,” Maria Murray said after she voted Tuesday evening.“I don’t think a beautiful property like that belongs in the hands of the city.”
But Tuesday’s vote could be moot because of an ongoing court battle.
According to Flanders Foundation attorney Susan Brandt Hawley, a judge will likely have the last word on whether the city can sell the property. She expects a ruling in December.