HPC Meeting Minutes
February 17, 2011
The Historic Preservation Commission met on Thursday, February 17, 2011 at the City Council Chambers, 305 Gay Street. Chair Kathy Manicke called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. Ms. Manicke began the meeting by taking roll call and swearing in the persons to testify.
Commissioners Attending: Kathy Manicke, Chair; Brian Roche; Farrell McCoy; Kathleen (Katie) Clendaniel; Jay Corvan, alternate
Absent: Gary Young, Vice Chair
Other Representatives Attending: Daniel L. Brandewie, City Planner II
APPROVAL OF MINUTES: January 20, 2011 minutes are not available at the present time.
HPC #31-11, "206 Choptank Avenue"-owned by Dorchester County Council, request to demolish a residential structure at this address.
Mr. Brandewie stated there is a Dorchester County Council representative here tonight and he will give a presentation. Mr. Brandewie prepared a package for the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) members providing the background description and pictures of the property.
Mr. Brandewie continued. The structure at 206 Choptank Avenue is being requested by Dorchester County Council for demolition. It was offered for purchase during the most recent tax sale of the property, however no bids were received. The property is in dilapidated condition with the rear portion of the house removed and exposed to the elements. The City and the County has had tax liens on the property in the past. The County is before the HPC to request approval of this demolition. He also included an evaluation by Dale Price, Building Official, on its structural integrity as well as pictures taken by Mr. Brandewie took during a site visit. There was a member of a non-profit organization expressing some interest in it; however, they have declined further interest in the project due to other obligations.
Mr. Brandewie noted the HPC approved a request in 2005 by the owner at that time for minor repairs and to remove the rear addition and replace it. Apparently the rear addition was then removed and no replacement constructed. The property continued to deteriorate over this time and the owner defaulted. For the record, Mr. Brandewie read Mr. Price's assessment.
Mr. Brandewie also stated for the record, the P&Z Department was not able to publish the advertisement for this agenda in the local newspapers seven days in advance of the hearing. The State law does not require ads for HPC matters to be run in the local newspaper, but the local guidelines do. The property was properly posted seven days in advance of this meeting. He stated if there were any objections to the advertising situation, it should be noted through the course of the night. This applies to all new agenda items. The HPC could choose to delay action on this if they believe it appropriate. We would run the ad again but in Staff's opinion a good faith effort was made to give due notice.
Mr. Corvan said the one thing he wants to avoid on something like this is to be sure the procedure is adhered to. Mr. Brandewie said the HPC could choose to have a special called meeting and not wait a full month. They could still meet the advertising requirements within a week to two. Mr. Corvan said he does not want there to be a procedural issue.
In Mr. Brandewie's opinion, the HPC can have the public hearing, take public testimony, but it would be appropriate to re-advertise in case someone did not see it and conduct another public hearing to obtain additional public input. HPC can delay the entire proceedings tonight, but there are people present who may want to testify and who may not be here next month.
Ms. Manicke asked if any one would like to testify about 206 Choptank Avenue.
Tom Merryweather, Dorchester County Attorney, spoke and gave testimony. He presented an overview and of the County's involvement with the property through the tax sale process. He provided copies of Court documents that identified the previous tax liens estimated to be approximately $38,000. He provided an estimate from a local contractor that projected it would cost approximately $200,000 to bring it back to its previous condition. The County would be willing to take offers for the purchase of the property. Any proceeds would be split between the City and the County. At this point, the process calls for demolition, estimated to cost approximately $6,000, but the County is willing to look at alternative approaches. He would not be available to meet in March but would be back in April.
- Linda Starling, 119 Choptank Avenue, spoke on behalf of the West End Citizens Association. She gave her testimony. They are opposed to the demolition of the building.
- Carroll Dail, 202 Glenburn Avenue spoke on the need to conduct additional historical research on the property. It is possible that this is one of the houses transported from Holland Island.
Discussion followed about the need to board up the structure to prevent it from further deterioration and fire. Mr. Brandewie said one avenue to consider is to ask the County/City to cooperate with manpower and supplies to stabilize the structure at least temporarily, to either allow the City /County to offer it for sale and actively market the property, since it technically is free and clear of the tax liens. HPC members noted that they don't know if there could be a potential buyer out there and if advertising could potentially draw some interest in buying the property at some reasonable offer. The County would save $6,000.00 in demolition costs although they would need to spend $1,000.00 - $2,000.00 at least on securing the property.
Ms. Clendaniel asked would the County and the City work together to stabilize and protect the property and advertise for a buyer before they completely give up.
Mr. Corvan asked if the HPC could come to the County's meeting. It is important to explain the HPC's position and have a chance to talk about it between now and then to have clearer alternatives to demolition.
Ms. Clendaniel said the HPC is not asking the County to spend any money to rehabilitate this property. At this time the HPC suggestion is for the City and County to discuss between themselves as to what they can do to save this property. It is an opportunity to pull all of their resources together and discuss ways to move forward from today.
Mr. Roche's position is it will cost less to secure the structure than it is to demolish it.
Ms. Clendaniel asked the County if they could notify City Staff when they will have the Council Meeting. That is where they will discuss this giving an opportunity for the HPC to attend.
Mr. Roche said he does not understand why the HPC needs to go to County Council and discuss it. HPC needs to make a determination with good evidence as to whether the structure should be demolished or whether it should be secured. The County Council is not the forum to do that.
Mr. Brandewie said to add to Mr. Roche's point, the HPC can ask with the County's concurrence if they can delay action on this until the next meeting; otherwise the HPC would be obligated to act within 45 days on their request. The question is can the HPC with the County's consent delay their decision for a period of time in order to formulate alternatives. The representatives from the County, Mr. Merryweather and Mr. Lindy Bramble agreed to the delay.
Ms. Manicke said the HPC will table this item to the May 2011meeting.
HPC #32-11, "428-432 Race Street"-owned by Tony Calabro and represented by Chris Gillis, with Crystal Signs, requests installation of a projection sign to replace an existing projection sign on front of a commercial building.
Mr. Brandewie stated that the applicant is seeking to replace the existing projection sign with a similar sized new slightly smaller projection sign on this commercial building. The HPC's package includes material provided by the applicant showing the sign dimensions, the type and style. It would be replaced in approximately the same location where it is now. Given the size of the sign, since he is reducing a non-conforming sign, there may be room in the code to allow for that interpretation.
Chris Gillis from Crystal Signs, 2903 Cedar Woods Drive, presented his information, noting the dimensions and location of the new sign. It could be considered an internally lit, Art Deco style sign with a vertical and horizontal element. There are examples of this Art Deco style found on other buildings in this area. This sign's design would allow for three tenants to advertise. A less favored alternative would be to install three separate projection signs. The existing sign is not anchored well and represents somewhat of a safety hazard for its continued use.
Ms. Clendaniel said she prefers that the existing "Jones & Moore" entrance sign not be removed. Other slot signs can be installed over the store front windows if it is possible because the "Jones & Moore" signs speak to the history of the building and to the commercial/social history. It is part of the historic landscape along the commercial rows of buildings along Race Street.
Mr. Corvan said he does not see evidence of any art deco in the building. If one looks at our codes, Section 5 under Signage, it says "Signage can embrace the historic significance of commercial area of signs. Designs should be compatible with architectural detailing of the building on which they are attached to or where they are placed". If it is a neoclassical building, it should have a neoclassical sign. That is his reading of what this code asks one to do.
Mr. Corvan said he finds the back-lit sign non-historic and generally not recommended. This is his first night on the HPC and he said he is familiarizing himself to former decisions made by the HPC. In his opinion, a neoclassical building with an art deco sign with the back-lit feature seems inappropriate. He can apply the idea by trying to simplify by putting two or three businesses together in a kind of kiosk, although technically he thinks it becomes confusing as to who is there. He prefers that the signs be mounted individually on the shops to identify which shops are there as opposed to something nebulous like trying to find the actual location of a certain shop. A kiosk works in a common entrance, but he does not see these as common entrances.
Mr. Corvan complimented Crystal Signs for their Art Deco sign. He just questions the appropriateness of it. Art deco signs were designed for automobile viewing for going by quickly. That is why the sign sticks out from the building because one is going by fast to pick up a visual cue right away. It does not help the pedestrian to have it that high.
Ms. Clendaniel said she wants to know more about the sign that was there because she is certain that is connected with Cambridge's civil rights' history on Race Street.
Mr. Roche said he thinks the HPC should give definitive guidance so that if they come back to the HPC they can get something that is approved. He does not want to just say no.
Mr. Brandewie said if the applicant agrees on behalf of the property owner, the HPC could table the action tonight and ask that they bring back some alternative designs. Otherwise, the HPC would be obligated to deny the application unless the HPC has the concurrence of the property owner to table it for up to 45 days.
Ms. Clendaniel said at the beginning of this hearing, the HPC discussed not voting due to the problem of meeting advertising requirements.
Mr. Roche's suggestion is that if the HPC has had discussion, they come to a conclusion and as a Commission provide formal guidance.
Mr. Corvan said he can summarize the thoughts here: because the HPC thinks that the sign is not consistent with its design and style of building, the HPC would prefer that the signage reflect the neoclassical period of the building in some way. The HPC also thinks that because of the projection of the sign even though legal, they would rather see something that identifies the individual shops instead of projecting out from the façade. Maybe a smaller version below the cornice that one could actually accommodate that or individual signs on the store fronts in a font that is symbolic of the building. He thinks that is as much guidance as the HPC should be giving at this point.
Ms. Manicke asked the applicant if he would be agreeable to tabling this until their next regular meeting on March 17th. The applicant said yes.
- Deborah Haynes, 6 Willis Street, provided testimony and spoke in favor of the sign. It was eye-catching and attractive.
Mr. Corvan said in a situation like this it is difficult to describe graphics verbally. It would be helpful for the HPC to have some kind of workbook they could point to when the signs come in. It makes it easier for the HPC to explain what they are talking about and it would be in the guidelines. He does not want to see people lose time as a result of the historic review process. He wants it to be a streamlined process and make these things a lot easier for professionals to follow. There was no further discussion.
CONTINUATION OF CASES
HPC #21-11, 702 Church Street-Michael & Beverly Robinson (property owners) have filed a previous request to replace porch columns and make general repairs to the porch. HPC acted to deny installation of round porch columns at their meeting in January until more information is submitted on alternatives.
Mr. Brandewie said back in December 2010, Mr. Robinson presented to the HPC with plans to renovate his front porch. There were issues about his columns that were not appropriately installed, did not receive HPC approval and about whether or not he could and should move forward with those specific round columns that are undersized for the height of the porch. Mr. Robinson mentioned through Staff that he was exploring the ribbed columns or turn columns, but felt it was too expensive. Mr. Robinson preferred to keep the round columns. HPC at the last meeting did not want to move forward with approving the round columns as presented without additional information on what the cost were for the ribbed columns and what alternatives did he explore as far as those cost estimates.
Mr. Brandewie talked to Mr. Robinson today and he is willing to come back and present those estimates. He seemed receptive going to the turned columns after speaking with him. He will be there at the next meeting in March, 2011.
ADMINISTRATIVELY APPROVED/ROUTINE MAINTENANCE
215 Glenburn Avenue. Mr. Brandewie noted that Michael and Dale Schrader, property owners/applicants, are requesting approval for removing two aluminum storm doors and replacing them with wood, full length glass and screen inserts. They have been before the HPC at least 5 or 6 times in the renovation of their house at 215 Glenburn Avenue. Normally, Mr. Brandewie said he would not have approved this as an administrative approval since it was replacing aluminum doors with two wood doors. However, at a previous meeting, he believes Mr. Michael Schrader said he wanted permission to go ahead and replace the existing storm doors and it was his understanding that the HPC deferred that to P&Z Staff for appropriateness. Mr. Schrader is putting up wood framed doors with the full glass window insert and a screen door. Mr. Brandewie said he thought that the proposed doors were appropriate. HPC members had no objections to this. Mr. Corvan said they have done a beautiful job with their house.
Ms. Manicke said the HPC wants to schedule an evening meeting before the next HPC meeting to work on business. They scheduled it for Thursday, March 10th at 6:30 p.m. It was recommended by HPC members to have staff work with the Chair directly on changes to various documents like the By-Laws and Rules of Procedures and bring them back to the Commission.
Discussion followed on some general topics. Mr. Corvan said some people will come before the HPC and say they can't afford it. If the HPC had some way of establishing what values are for actual construction costs when they apply for a construction permit and the HPC knows what general renovation costs are (somewhere between $150.00 - $200.00 a square foot); therefore the HPC should have some idea of what the costs are depending on what they are doing.
Mr. Brandewie said he talked to Habitat representative who said prices have come down tremendously and the technology is better on jacking the houses up. Mr. Corvan said one of the things the HPC can do is become a catalyst for the City and County to start talking about this.
Ms. Clendaniel moved to adjourn the meeting. Ms. McCoy seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:36 p.m.
Daniel L. Brandewie
City Planner II