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A Fairytale Home is a bit of a Sticky Wicket

I’ve been following the real estate pursuits of Noel Sutton for a few years now, which is why I was not surprised to hear that he had purchased The Castle at Mayfair Lane. As soon as I learned that Sutton was the new owner, I gave him a call, to see if I could check the place out. I was interested to see some of the work that was underway, since the last time that I had visited the fabulous abode in 2015. Sutton agreed to let me in to take a look around, but was not ready for any public photos because work was still “in progress”.

When I arrived at The Castle, aka #21, Sutton showed me around, starting with the lower level parking garage. He pointed out a new gate that he had just installed, and said that it was causing a stir with a few Mayfair Lane residents. I asked him why, and he explained that there had been a couple of break-ins since he had purchased the property – the gate was intended as a security measure. Fair enough. At that point, I was not aware that the gate had opened a floodgate of issues.

The gate, and Sutton’s “front yard”

If you’re familiar with the layout of Mayfair Lane, then you know that EB Green deigned the property to mimic the appearance of a quaint English garden-lined lane (or narrow courtyard), with homes on either side of the walkway. In this particular case, the structures that front the lane are two-storeys. The lane boasts beautiful sight lines up top, and a parking garage below.

When Sutton purchased the castle-like residence, he intended the property to be his long-term home. He immediately started to fix the place up, which was in need of some loving care. It wasn’t long before Sutton realized that the fairytale property had a downside. His place got broken into twice, and although the criminals were caught, he knew that he had to do something to make the grounds more secure, which he did. One of the ways that he felt he could make the property safer, was to gate off the entire parking garage with an electric gate (at the street), which he would “happily pay for”. So he went to the Mayfair Lane board and asked if they would allow him to purchase the gate, in order to make all of Mayfair Lane a safer place to live. For the most part, it was a way to help prevent any further car and home break-ins, which he said, was a problem for the entire community. The gate would not mean that the enclave would be a ‘gated community’ because the main access to the village, from the sidewalk, was via two sets of steps leading upward to the elevated courtyard/lane.

The Mayfair Lane board declined the offer of the gate (at the street). In turn, Sutton decided to place it at the back of the parking garage, on his own property. Before installing the gate, he went to the president of Mayfair Lane board and was told that he needed Preservation Board approval. He then went to the Preservation Board and got unanimous approval. From there he paid a visit to City Hall and got a permit. Once he had all of the approvals, he built the gate, which was reconstructed from an original gate that he found on his property. Problem solved.

One of the designated places to turn around

It wasn’t long before neighbors got up in arms about the gate, saying that Sutton needed to take it down. “From what I understand, some of the residents have become accustomed to using my front ‘yard’ as a place to pull three-point turns with their cars, which is why they want me to take the gate down,” said Sutton. “There are two other places to turn around in the garage (see inset), plus the drivers can easily back up from their own parking spots with ease, which is what most of them do anyways. They don’t need my front yard to turn around. If you read the bylaws set forth by the Mayfair Lane Board of Directors, it clearly states that the space in front of #21 Mayfair Lane is not to be used for cars to turn around. Furthermore, #21 is considered the only separate home at the lane, and not subjected to the village bylaws, but I do pay the dues because I have an easement to access my property. To be considerate, I even placed the gate four feet back, away from the property line, so that nobody would complain. Now the Board is complaining to the Common Council, after I spent $20K+ to install the gate.”

Sutton says that he is perplexed at the response from neighbors, who are demanding that he take down the gate. “Residents are grasping at straws,” he said. “The gate always existed. It was reconstructed in order to preserve the integrity of the property. I just moved it over a few feet from where it sat, so I find it hard to believe that the ‘gate’ is the real issue here. I’m facing backlash because I took away a convenience that was never supposed to be a convenience. How would you like it if people used your front yard to turn around all day long?

The Preservation Board originally granted Sutton approval for the gate, because it was barely visible from the street (see lead image). Sutton assured me that it’s not interfering with anyone, other than random people who enter the property through the back, thus gaining access into the parking garage, which makes the cars and the homes vulnerable. Sutton says that until he moved in, there was no security at all.

Now Sutton is looking like the bad guy because he’s protecting his property.

“The property appears to be an open invitation for anyone to walk up and hang out. The president of the Mayfair Lane board told me that he caught a guy smoking crack in the parking garage,” explained Sutton. “There’s a problem here that I am addressing, and I was hoping that the residents would understand what I was doing. I went through the proper channels. EB Green and his son built the castle in 1928. Then they added Mayfair Lane after that, because they were enamored with the English Villages that they saw. It was a different time. Back then, it was a also a different world, with little crime. I’m simply updating the property to reflect the changing times.”

The view from Sutton’s front window, up top on the lane

Sutton is living in somewhat of a ‘fishbowl’ because of the nature of his home, which he says is fine – it’s the nature of the beast. His home is an architectural magnet that attracts all sorts of people, day and night – from gawkers, to tourist groups that peer into his windows, to random people with prowling eyes who walk off the street to see what’s “behind the curtain”. Sutton said that if his house was a part of The Mayfair Lane village, that would be one thing, but as it stands, it’s not part of the lane – it sits at the end of the lane, apart from the village. Mayfair Lane residents might not understand that, or if they do, they are choosing to ignore it, believes Sutton.

“It’s all very silly actually,” said Sutton, who feels that neighbors are making a mountain out of a molehill. This gate is not disturbing anyone other than the people who want to turn around on my property. If it’s between safety and convenience, I will have to choose safety. And who ever heard of a castle without a gate?”

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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