ROCHESTER — Five years after construction began, the dream home of Tamanna Krebsbach has turned into a nightmare.
She’s sunk nearly $3 million into the four-story, 15,000-square-foot home, yet it sits unfinished, with bare concrete walls and gaping holes where windows should be.
And now her neighbors have labeled the half-built house an eyesore and are pressuring the local township to have it torn down.
“I’m stuck,” Krebsbach said. “I’ve been trapped by the township and the divorce. And I don’t have the funds to finish it.
“It’s just a really terrible situation. I feel threatened. My neighbors don’t like me.”
Perched atop a hill overlooking Bamber Valley in southwest Rochester, the massive concrete structure dominates the skyline. And that’s what has the neighbors upset. They say the unfinished home violates height restrictions — and, frankly, they’re sick of looking at it.
“This violates the spirit of the height law,” said Viki Morris, who lives next door and led a petition drive that gathered more than 100 signatures demanding that Rochester Township to take action on getting rid of the house.
“The house should never have been approved in the first place,” she said, because the building permits were granted based on a misunderstanding of how tall the home would be.
Homes in the area are limited to a height of 35 feet. The Krebsbach home is much taller, but it’s set into the hillside, with the bottom two stories below ground level from the entry to the home on the third floor.
But Morris and others say the only way the home could stay within the height limit would be to truck in massive amounts of fill to bring up the grade level of the lower two stories. The township has estimated that it would take about 500,000 cubic feet of fill — more than 1,100 truckloads — to bring the home into compliance.
Meanwhile, the original building permits have expired, and the area township association that grants permits hasn’t issued new ones.
It’s a standoff, with the township and the neighbors wanting the home gone and Krebsbach clinging to what she says is her major post-divorce financial asset. Formerly the owner of a luxury salon, she said her business failed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The unfinished home is currently on the market for $1.5 million.
“I feel like this kind of goes to show you that you really don’t have the rights you think you have,” Krebsbach said. “I can’t really be mad at anybody, because I’m trying to set a good example for my children. But I’m shocked that a life can be turned upside down and put in turmoil.”
Neighbors demanded action
The Rochester Township board has gotten into the dispute because residents demanded it, said board President Matt Kitzmann.
“We had heard from the constituents up there starting about two years ago,” he said. “It’s a prestigious area of our township. I’ve heard people say it looks like an unfinished shopping mall. And there are multimillion-dollar homes all around.
“They were leaning on us as a board to help them. And we as a board need to act for our constituents.”
In October, the township board issued an order giving Krebsbach 45 days to substantially complete construction. If she didn’t, the board threatened to go to court for an order of demolition.
The board later softened its stance, offering an agreement giving Krebsbach 90 days to sell the home. She found a buyer — but when the buyer learned they might have to remove the fourth floor of the home to bring it into compliance, the deal fell through, she said.
And now Krebsbach has refused to sign the 90-day agreement, Kitzmann said, leaving the whole settlement up in the air.
“The idea of 90 days to sell was brought to us by them.” he said. “It was their idea. And why she won’t sign her own agreement, I don’t know. It was a little odd. So in my opinion, that was a stall tactic.”
The best solution, Kitzmann said, would be to find a buyer willing to remove the fourth story of the home and complete the buildout. That would make it relatively easy to bring the home into compliance with the height restriction.
Meanwhile, the board went to Olmsted District Court last month seeking a judicial order to demolish the home. It would cost about $200,000, Kitzmann said, and the board would pay the cost and then slap a lien on the property to be paid back when it eventually sells. A hearing in that case is set for May 19.
Krebsbach is hanging on, hoping she can sell the home and regretting the rift it’s caused. The petition, she said, makes her feel “violated.”
“I’m supposed to be your neighbor,” she said. “They don’t know what’s in our house or our hearts. I just feel this is very ugly.”