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HPC Minutes

October 30, 2014

The Historic Preservation Commission met on Thursday, October 30th, at the Public Safety Building, 8 Washington Street. Mike Russo, Vice Chair, began the meeting at began the meeting at 7:05PM and took a roll call of members in attendance.

Commissioners Attending: Mike Russo, Ron Berman, Patricia Weichmann and Dormaim Bromwell Green after the meeting had commenced.

Other representatives or staff attending: Dan Brandewie, City Planner. Commissioner Jackie Vickers.

Mr. Russo announced that the purpose of the meeting is to listen to comments from the public regarding the draft HPC Design Guidelines. HPC members will not be discussing the material itself. We will be listening to your feedback tonight. An additional public meeting is scheduled for Thursday, November 6th, at the Dorchester County Library. The deadline for receiving comments has been extended to Nov. 30th.

Mr. Brandewie noted that copies of the comments received to date are being provided to the public and will be entered into the record.

Mr. Tim Crosby commended the Commission for updating the Guidelines. He recommended that more flexibility be shown for the use of alternative materials such as for shutters made of composite materials which can look like wood and last a lot longer. He supported the idea of not encouraging or allowing vinyl or aluminum shutters.

Mike Starling, 119 Choptank Avenue, submitted comments for the record. He stated that he thought the draft format looked polished, clear and easy to understand. He recommended extending the deadline for receiving comments beyond the 30 day deadline. He suggested looking at other historic district guidelines in the state as opposed to modeling the Guidelines after federal or National Park Service standards. He recommended that more citations be inserted as there were several statements in the document that are editorial in nature and need to be backed up with facts and references. Mr. Starling also recommended that the HPC provide a list of qualified contractors that are familiar with historic preservation work. He further recommended that consistency be checked for certain topics (painting). He recommended that more information be provided on the topic of historical significance (period of significance); what era in time is the target for restoring properties, what is a contributing structure; how does one evaluate what a structure looked like at a certain point in time.

Mr. Brandewie reviewed the background to the historic district's nomination process where it evaluated all structures and properties in the district on an A-G rating system. There is one document ("Between the Nanticoke and Choptank") that provides some photographical documentation on the structures: This book's documentation also served the basis for the consultant's nominating report. But there are very few photographs that show what the properties used to look like at certain points in time."

Mr. Starling further recommended that flexibility be shown, especially for homeowners that may not have the means to conduct expensive repair works. Not doing so will lead to more instances of "demolition by neglect". More flexibility is encouraged and the use of terms such as "must" or "will not be approved" are too strict.

Charles McFadden, 207 Belvedere, recommended adopting an approach that would provide more flexibility for lower tiered structures. For example, certain properties on High, Mill and portions of Locust should be held to a higher standard. He noted that he completely restored a front porch on his house and that the use of alternative materials was approved by the HPC and the State. One can't tell the difference between a fiberglass column and a wood column but the fiberglass column will last for years. The HPC needs to be more flexible with the use of modern materials. He also encouraged flexibility on the removal of chimneys in the rear of structures where they are not visible from the street. Owners, who want to build or add on to the rear of their house, should have more flexibility in dealing with the preservation or removal of rear chimneys. He also spoke in favor of the HPC regulating colors. He made reference to two properties in the Historic District where the owner painted houses in an inappropriate manner and it is only a matter of time before someone does it again as a protest. He further commented on uneven enforcement of the historic guidelines. He advocated for more flexibility in certain situations, such as allowing vinyl windows for smaller homes (i.e. Choptank Avenue). Putting liens on homes (for failing to fix up a property) is not effective.

Judd Vickers, 206 Belvedere stated that he believed that overall, there has been a good balance between preservation and efforts to modernize. He also stated that more flexibility be shown under certain circumstances, such as for the installation of vinyl windows. Vinyl siding can look OK under certain circumstances. More flexibility is needed to show the business community that we want to invest here. He further recommended that Pine Street's historic district come into the fold (be regulated) and to show flexibility in administering guidelines to property owners in this district. He further advised not wading into the subject of regulating landscaping in great detail such as for screening HVAC systems or removal of trees.

Frank Cooke, 303 Mill Street, stated that he was speaking both as a property owner and owner of rental properties. He thanked members for having the meeting and noted that he has lived here for 14 years, having been drawn to the area because if reminded him of an area where he grew up. He cited his own personal experiences with efforts to restore his property: he removed the vinyl siding on his house and restored chimneys. He encouraged efforts to look at providing incentives to restoring properties and expressed concern on dealing with lead paint. He remarked on a procedural issue; on the issue of voting when only three members are present. He recommended using consistent terminology in the document such as for the Board of Appeals. He acknowledged that some wood windows will hold up better than vinyl replacements; but that there are some windows so poorly constructed that they are simply not worth saving and are hazardous. He advised considering the quality of the existing window when evaluating replacement versus repair options. He expressed concern that the Guidelines were stricter in some places; to avoid sweeping statements and to use citations where needed (such as with energy efficiency). He thought the graphics were good and it was well organized.

Dave Thatcher, 1007 Locust Street, submitted written comments for the record. He agreed that it was a slick document but was downhill from there. He thought the guidelines were inconsistent; (example-vinyl windows). They will limit homeowners even more and tie the hands of the Commission. He cited a reference that says one can't replace windows unless they are beyond repair. This is not realistic. He noted that there 23 references in Chapter 4 using the term "will not" He commented on language dealing with wood shutters, tree removal, and the potential cost to homeowners for archaeological research as it may relate to their property. He objected to the check list for replacing windows. He stated that new homeowners will be blindsided. The City should be encouraging homeownership. He recommended sticking with the current guidelines and that all five commissioners should reside in the Historic District.

Patricia Weichmann, Chair stated that the Commission will stay here until approximately 9:00PM to listen to additional comments.

Meeting adjourned at approximately 8:45 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Daniel L. Brandewie, City Planner II

Signature: Patricia Weichmann, Chair_____________________________________ Date: _____________2014.