By Karen Gadbois, The Lens staff writer |

A plumber with headquarters on Broad Street did his best to follow the rules when he filed an application to demolish a building in a historic area – except that it’s not his property.

The fiancée of the owner was at a recent hearing of the Historic District Landmarks Commission, and she said she’s living there and that neither she nor the owner want it torn down.

The two-story commercial brick structure is at 1206 N. Broad St.

An application to demolish this South Broad Street building was a little premature. Photo by Karen Gadbois

Horace Bynum, owner of Bynum Plumbing adjacent to this property, had requested in 2007 and again in 2011 permission to demolish another adjacent property around the corner on Gov. Nicholls St. to create more parking for his business. Both requests were denied.

A visibly frustrated Bynum approached the commission last week with his plan to purchase the neighbor’s Broad Street building. He said buying that spot would make business sense only if he could knock the building down. He said he wanted the commission’s blessing before he began negotiating with the owner in earnest.

He assured the commissioners that he had a plan to rebuild on the site but had not yet drawn them up.

Property owner James Tregler is in prison awaiting trial on federal bomb-making charges, said his fiancée, who declined to be identified. She said they need the property to raise money for his criminal defense.

But she said Bynum acted in haste when he requested the demolition.

Commissioner Sonny Shields was among the many members who didn’t think the commission had legal standing to hear the application and wanted to know how it even was filed.

HDLC Director Elliot Perkins told the commission that his office often accepts applications from people interested in buying a property and who may have a purchase agreement, contingent on getting permission to demolish. He also said the owner’s fiancée had made the original application, not Bynum.

Deputy Director Eleanor Burke chimed in and said, “If I spent time verifying who was being honest, it would take all day.”

The commissioners took no action on the request.

The fiancée later told The Lens that she is trying to raise money for Tregler to hire a criminal defense attorney. She said that if convicted, he faces up to 12 years in prison for confecting a bomb to blow up a car,  a crime he said he didn’t commit.

Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led...