When Vicki and Howard White moved in 1964 to a charming Greek Revival house on the west side of Farmington Hills – then Farmington Township – they felt like they were moving to “the country.”
“Neighbors were few, and you could count the surrounding homes on one hand,” son Derek White wrote in a report to the City of Farmington Hill Historic District Commission.
But times have changed, and now the property at 22000 Haggerty Road has been dwarfed by large office complexes on either side. The White family has been trying to sell it since 2009, investing $34,000 in maintenance and steadily dropping the price from $520,000 to $289,000 in 2013. The problem, White said, has been something his mother did to protect the property from development: having it designated as a historic district.
The City of Farmington Hills has no contiguous historic district. Instead, owners of historic homes may apply for the designation. In 1981, afraid that a large commercial real estate broker would snap it up, Vicki White submitted an application. The home became known as Historic District #7 – The David Simmons House. It is also listed on the Michigan State Registry of Historical Places.
A written history of the district indicates the home was built between 1834 and 1843, by David Simmons, a member of a family that pioneered Livonia. Despite some exterior and interior renovations, “much of its original detailing is still intact, and the changes that have occurred over its lifetime are now considered historic as well.”
In a letter to Historic District commissioners, Derek White noted the home no longer sits in the “idyllic country setting” that existed when his parents first purchased it. Also, he wrote, his mother’s intention in applying for the designation was not to preserve the historic home but to stymie efforts of developers to purchase and tear it down.
White submitted a history of efforts by various real estate agents to sell the property, which included advertising a sale price of $1. There were no offers, and feedback from potential buyers has centered around the unknown costs of restoring the historic home. Because of the historic district designation, a new owner would be required to receive approval from the commission for any renovations, following the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s “Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings.”
City ordinances set out just three conditions under which historic district designation can be removed, and in December, the Historic District Commission determined the David Simmons House did not meet any of them.
The family sees only one option left, Derek White said, and that is finding someone to purchase the house and move it off the property. Anyone interested may call 248-882-5540, or write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.