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East End News

Follow along as Amy and Jason Tesauro build a 15-wide dream house on Broad Street

Richmond Magazine has the first in a series to follow Amy and Jason Tesauro’s experience in building a new 15-foot wide house for their 7-member clan at 3706 East Broad Street:

“I bought a lot today,” she told me. “It’s 22-feet wide.”

This struck me as absurd. “That’s not a lot,” I said. “That’s a little.” Figure in the required 3-foot setbacks from neighbors on either side, plus the exterior walls, and you’re down to 15 feet. “It’ll work,” she assured me. “Dutch and Japanese families do it all the time with even less.”


But before you ever put shovel to earth in Church Hill’s historic district, you’ve got to stare down the purists, appease the preservationists and earn approval from the persnickety Richmond Commission of Architectural Review (CAR). At best, we’d get a skinny house with views of the river basin. At worst, we’d end up with a $45,000 badminton and bocce court for the children.


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Paul S 02/21/2016 at 10:40 AM

I’ve read a few articles on this house the last month or so. What is not clear to me is why it needs to be 15ft wide if the lot is 22ft wide. They mention setbacks but don’t really fully delve into it. Almost every house on my block nearby, which is zoned R-8 and full of early 1900s homes, has one side of the house on a zero lot line. Is this zero lot line option not available to new construction? Do neighbors have to consent to zero lot line for new construction? Or does this parcel have different zoning that simply does not permit this at all?

garry 02/21/2016 at 3:18 PM

quote from the article writer” the ugly (the verbal equivalent of Molotov cocktails from neighborhood opposition)” —
Yo dog what neighbor is throwing verbal molotov cocktails? I’ve spoken to most of the people in the 3600 block of e broad and none of us have met you. I did meet a photographer who was taking pictures of the lot, was that Jason? If so I thought you were cool with the people on the street. To the builders Jason and Amy Most of the people in this block have been here a long time. I and most neighbors welcome you. I know Joe was happy to sell the lot. How about treat each of your neighbors to be as individuals don’t sterotype us if you have a bad experience with one. if you see me pull out a lighter i’m just going to light a smoke, so don’t shoot me or say bad things about me in the magazine. I have no intentions of lighting a molotov cocktail.

Charles Field 02/21/2016 at 3:24 PM

In the R-8 zoning a detached house must have 3 foot setbacks. They would need the permission and an easement from the neighbors to attach to their building. Also if you’re closer than 3′ to the property line you can’t have any windows. They probably could have gotten a reduced set back on one side through a special use permit, but that’s a hassle and takes months.

15′ will work fine if they have someone who knows what they’re doing help them with the layout. 15′ is a wide room as long as there is no hallway through it. They could rotate the interior stairs 90 degrees to eliminate the hallways on the second and third floor. It could be really sweet.

Lee 02/21/2016 at 3:38 PM

@Paul S – my understanding is that two houses can be built attached, and in theory I think a single home can be built to the lot line if either a) the person building owns both lots or B) the house is being built attached to an existing zero lot line house.

You would have to read the zoning ordinance and/or talk to the city to figure out exactly how it works, but I think in general the city does not want a new building to be built in a way that obstructs light and access to a preexisting building which was not designed with future attachment in mind, if that makes sense

comp 02/21/2016 at 3:40 PM

The current zoning requires a 3 foot setback from each side lot line. Many of the existing houses were constructed before there were any zoning requirements.

lbp 02/21/2016 at 9:07 PM

So sad to use Richmond Magazine to complain about the new block, neighbors and neighborhood where you have CHOSEN to build – A block with residents who have been here over half a century, a decade or merely months and love it. May not be the best way to endear oneself to the folks you might find yourself sharing sidewalk with soon. Hope the next installment reflects more positivity, less whining and less mud slinging against people you have not met.

Eric S. Huffstutler 02/22/2016 at 12:40 AM

@6 comp, I agree. Houses you see on top one another were built before certain codes existed. Now you need space for fire and health codes with access on both sides.

Has anyone else picked up on the insults here… ” ,,,you’ve got to stare down the purists, appease the preservationists and earn approval from the persnickety Richmond Commission of Architectural Review (CAR). ”

When you move to a historic neighborhood that is listed on two registries (local Old & Historic and the National Registry), you have certain obligations to maintain it. Not unlike associations in the suburbs. I hope the people building aren’t coming into the neighborhood with negative views of the community and its structure or why bother in the first place? They will never be happy.

Richard r 02/22/2016 at 6:31 AM


I actually laughed when I read the comment about staring down purists and appeasing preservationists, but that is because I know Jason has a great sense of humor and is just trying to be funny.

i took it as a general, unfair, but well intended comment about church hill preservation types and not about anyone on that block.

If you have been there for a while you represent the true ‘preservationists’ and I wish there were more stories on the news about folks like you. As important and helpful as preservation and new construction are, there would be no church hill without people living here for long periods and taking care of their neighborhoods

Matt Jarreau 02/22/2016 at 3:37 PM

Amy and Jason are very sweet people and ideal neighbors. They had kids when they moved here, had a children while living here and are deciding to stay and raise their kids in the city which they live vs. leave us for the burbs.

Their comments are a reflection of their first experience designing and developing this parcel in a CAR district. Anyone would tell you its challenging especially if you are trying to design and build for your family.

The comments are taken out of context. I would be surprised if they wished anyone any ill will especially their new neighbors

garry 02/22/2016 at 4:55 PM

Word Richard r, Thanks for the knowing insight. Life is grand and so is living on the Hill. The fabric of our neighborhood is strong and unique, looking forwards to more threads being added.

garry 02/22/2016 at 7:51 PM

Yo realtor Matt I copied the the magazines words. I took nothing out of context. If you think the magazine took the words out of context let them know. I did not do so.

You have sold property on the block and you reached out to meet more people than they have before tossing out an article about the neighborhood. If your boy took creative liberty with his words that’s fine but why flame the neighbors you will be living with for many years to come, unless as you say they choose to head for the burbs. Most of us in the neighborhood have dealt with CAR and the City Council and yes it can be cumbersome to deal with the city and it’s rules, but that doesn’t mean you throw shade at your neighbors. If they did encounter a rude somebody on the block I hate that for them, and hope that they can overcome it. People on this street and block are friendly, you know that. I’ve met you and like you and figure i’ll like these folks as well. We just ain’t meet ’em yet. We only have the article in R to represent them. If my feathers seem ruffled it’s because I care and so do most of my neighbors. Your friends will benefit from the tightness of the block and hopefully they will add to it’s strength and solidity. God Speed to the building of their new home.

Clay St 02/22/2016 at 8:42 PM

This looks like a great series. John, thanks for posting, and thanks to Amy and Jason for sharing as you go along.

Eric S. Huffstutler 02/22/2016 at 11:07 PM

I guess the wording was unfortunate. If it was meant to be a joke, It came off sounding like those who want to preserve our neighborhood are pains in the ass. Many of us are passionate to maintain the historic fabric so are a bit sensitive especially since we have been hoodwinked in the past. I am glad that the new neighbors will be welcome part of our community.

Hill Runner 02/23/2016 at 8:48 AM

I think it is worth noting that according to the notes from the CAR meetings someone came from the neighborhood to speak against them at both meetings. It doesn’t detail what exactly was said, but perhaps it left a bad impression on them.

morgan 02/23/2016 at 9:44 AM

and you wonder why comments are made regarding one’s neighbors…
garry, go introduce yourself. and stop the whining.

wobobee 02/23/2016 at 11:59 AM

Yes, Hill Runner. Someone from THE BLOCK spoke against them at both meetings. Not sure why people who have no idea what happened at these meetings insist on complaining about Jason’s description of his experience…

urbngrilla 02/23/2016 at 12:47 PM

the magazine publisher is getting exactly what he wants! church hill is a safe bet for lottza drama a’la buzzys-abc controversy. conflict makes for a more compelling story and sells ad space as the eyeballs just–can’t–turn away.

David 02/23/2016 at 12:53 PM

Some of the comments about the article feel unusually harsh. When I read “But before you ever put shovel to earth in Church Hill’s historic district, you’ve got to stare down the purists, appease the preservationists and earn approval from the persnickety Richmond Commission of Architectural Review (CAR).”…It made me chuckle as I’m certain this was the intention of the author.

The humorous part is there’s a certain amount of truth behind the comment. And I say this as a long-time Church Hill resident and property owner who cares about responsible development in the hood.

I’ve also had numerous interactions with CAR over many projects I’ve completed here and in the rest of the city.

For anyone who has been through the process, it can evoke multiple emotions…some, not positive.

Its great to voice an opinion but what seemed to work well (at least for me) is complete transparency into the project and reaching out to the surrounding neighbors prior to anything happening. It builds consensus and nobody feels as though their quality of life/vision for the neighborhood is at risk.

It sounds like a great project that will benefit the hood as well as the new residents. Best wishes on the new home!

East Grace 02/23/2016 at 1:09 PM

Thank you for taking the time to research this. Just goes to show we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

Eric S. Huffstutler 02/23/2016 at 1:29 PM

From what I recall, the CAR is supposed to be a review board that considers and either rejects or approves design (engineering plans) proposals. That they are bound by guidelines per design, size, materials, etc…as well as making sure any new builds or remodeling changes complement the surrounding period architecture. They are (were?) a part of the city and use to have their committee member’s emails a part of the city employee directory or an email contact for the board in general on their web page. With this current committee that is not so. It is like they are freelancing and try to avoid the very citizens they are to listen to and work with. That in itself seems a bit odd or even suspicious. They are not as transparent as they use to be.

garry 02/23/2016 at 4:17 PM

morgan i do wonder why the writer painted the neighborhood with such a negative broad brush and your curt comment doesn’t stop me from doing so. What you call whining I call asking for details.

garry 02/24/2016 at 2:07 PM

Amy and Jason I now understand what you mean. Your lack of commenting shows that you are wise people who have a life and better things to do with their time. Lesson learned. I’m glad you guys are building here. Your family and the vibe you bring will be a great addition to this tight knit block. This will be a sweet place to watch time pass and kids grow. Welcome neighbors.

Church Hill People's News | Richmond, Virginia 05/18/2016 at 7:44 AM

[…] Follow along as Amy and Jason Tesauro build a 15-wide dream house on Broad Street […]


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