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After three years in limbo, this historic Charlotte estate can fix its financial woes

The VanLandingham Estate in Plaza Midwood.
The VanLandingham Estate in Plaza Midwood.

The Charlotte City Council voted Monday to approve a rezoning plan that will put 22 townhouses around the historic VanLandingham Estate in Plaza Midwood.

Owner Billy Maddalon filed the proposal in February. He has said that the century-old estate, which operates as an event venue and bed and breakfast, is unprofitable, saddled with $1 million of debt, and is expensive to maintain.

“It's basically been an 18-year experiment that didn’t go very well,” Maddalon told the Observer. “It’s never really made any money.”

The addition of the townhouses would help preserve the estate's historic value while also adding to the variety of housing options within the neighborhood, city planners said.

"I applaud the petitioner for his patience," said council member Larken Egleston. "I'm very pleased that this will ... get taken care of tonight."

Egleston said this vote hasn't been a divisive issue among council or community members — a departure from Maddalon's last attempt to develop the property.

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Billy Maddalon, owner of the VanLandingham Estate, in the estate’s living room. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

A previous rezoning proposal for 19 townhouses and a community pool on the estate was shot down by the city council in 2015, following disputes among council members and complaints from some neighbors that the plan would generate too much traffic.

Former city council member Patsy Kinsey told Maddalon that the council was in favor of the townhouses but opposed the idea of a pool. Maddalon declined to separate the two proposals, leading to the denial of the request.

“My conscience is not comfortable with a pool in that location,” Kinsey said of the plan during the 2015 meeting.

The denial was “devastating” to the estate’s business, Maddalon said.

“We’ve just been struggling to keep the lights on,” he said. Maddalon said he hopes to move quickly forward with the newly approved development plans. He’s already met with several potential builders.

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Living room of the VanLandingham Estate. Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

What remains unclear is the future of the forest-green bungalow, built in 1913, that sits as the centerpiece of the estate. Maddalon had resisted selling the house in the past, fearing the historic building would be demolished. Now he says he isn’t opposed to selling or leasing the property if he feels the new tenants will preserve the building's historic value.

“Whatever is operating out of there, it will be a very special village within a very special community,” Maddalon said. “My guess is that after this is over … the VanLandingham Estate will be safe for many years to come.”

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A scaffold holds a 1938 photo of a dinner party in honor of actor Randolph Scott that was held in the VanLandingham Estate dining room (background). Diedra Laird dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

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