HDC guidelines are a point of contention again

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At the end of a two-hour Historic District Commission meeting, commissioner Greg Moon offered a blunt complaint about attorney Kristi Kendrick, who represented Becky Gillette and Joshua Cook. Moon took issue with Kendrick’s threats of lawsuits. He also demanded a public apology from Glenna Booth, City Historic Preservation Officer, for what he called “rudeness.”

Moon pointed out that Kendrick openly declared her threat. After the commission rejected her clients’ application, Kendrick said, “This is going to mean further litigation for the city.” Moon said, “Now you’re threatening us,” and Kendrick replied, “Yes, I am.”

Kendrick attended the May 1 meeting with Gillette, who owns a property at 298 N. Main St. She built a two-story structure on her property, and her neighbor filed a lawsuit. A circuit judge ruled that Gillette would have to remove the second story, but she could keep the lower level, built into the hillside. The ruling allowed her to put a roof over the building.

At the April 17 HDC meeting, Gillette asked approval to place a nearly flat concrete roof on the building. She said a metal roof, like the roof currently on the building, would protrude more, and she would have to build a railing to prevent anyone from walking onto the roof. The concrete would have a much lower profile, and she would have some use of it as a deck.

The commission voted against the concrete deck in April, but then rescinded the vote and deferred, so Gillette would not have to submit a new application.

Last week, Gillette returned with Kendrick, who maintained that the settlement in Pease v. Cook, Gillette, and the City of Eureka Springs, did not specify keeping the blue metal roof currently on the building. She said Gillette should have the option of using a concrete deck as a roof. She described other concrete decks in the neighborhood, although commissioners mentioned a difference between this proposal and the driveways or patios to which Kendrick referred.

Kendrick said HDC guidelines do not prohibit concrete, and they have the discretion to allow it. In a noncontributing structure, the commission should decide on the basis of compatibility with the neighborhood, which she called “historically industrial.” A concrete deck would fit with the neighborhood, Kendrick said, reminding commissioners that they were not choosing between the concrete and a blue metal roof. “You must consider the application before you,” she said, and asked the HDC to allow her clients to proceed, “so that Mr. Cook and Ms. Gillette can remove the second story of the shed that has so offended Ms. Pease.”

Twyla Pease, owner of the Round House, came to the microphone and objected to a deck because anyone sitting on the deck would look into her upper windows. Kendrick replied that nothing in HDC guidelines deals with this issue. “It’s common in cities to have people close together where they look in each others’ windows,” she said. The house on her clients’ property has windows looking into the Round House.

Commissioners agreed that their guidelines allow concrete, but those guidelines also express a clear preference for wood as a material for decks. Commissioner Dee Bright said wood is especially preferred where visible from the street, and this location will be visible from two streets.

Commissioners Judy Holden and Magi Hayde voted in favor, but Moon and commissioners Marty Cogan and John Nuckolls voted no. Bright abstained, explaining that she had been accosted twice on this subject by people who disregarded her attempts to avoid the conversation.

Booth serves as staff for the HDC. After the vote, she asked the commissioners voting against the application to state their reasons. Bright had already explained her abstention, which counted as a “no” vote. Cogan and Moon said they did not feel the plan met HDC guidelines, and Nuckolls added that he had not seen evidence of concrete decks on the property.

Booth asked if pictures of those decks would change his vote, and asked the commission to rescind the vote. The HDC had just gone through the same procedure, and they resisted. As Booth continued to advocate to overturn the vote, Moon reminded her, “We voted, we decided, we’re the commission, and you’re not.” At this point, Kendrick delivered her threat. After conferring with her clients, Kendrick withdrew her request to rescind the vote, and said they will submit a new application for the next meeting.

During commissioner comments at the end of the meeting, Moon said, “An attorney stood in front of us and told us she was threatening us.” He said he would check to see if she could be barred from future meetings. Regarding Booth, Moon said, “On a personal note, the last four or five meetings, I have felt rudeness from our staff member, Glenna Booth, who I think owes me an apology, and I’d like it to be a public apology.” Chairman Steve Holifield gave Booth an opportunity to respond, but she declined comment.

The commission will next meet at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22, a meeting rescheduled from May 15. Level III applications are due by May 9, and other levels are due by May 16.

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