Vinyl windows OK’d, but that’s not a precedent

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At the Jan. 16 meeting of the Historic District Commission, Ken Rundel asked permission to replace 11 windows at 21 Steele St. He said over the course of 10 years, he and his wife have worked to restore “an eyesore,” built in the 1930s, with an addition in the 1970s.

Rundel asked approval for vinyl windows, mainly because of the cost. He said custom wood windows to fit the existing openings would cost three times as much. He further explained that the house already has some vinyl or aluminum windows.

Guidelines for the historic district generally prohibit vinyl windows, although some discretion remains for new or non-historic buildings. In January, commissioner John Nuckolls said, “We’re talking about putting vinyl windows on a historic property.” The HDC postponed a decision pending a site visit, and Rundel promised they would see “a hodgepodge of roofs and windows.”

The site visit was held before last week’s meeting. Nuckolls stuck to his hard line, saying, “I don’t see how that meets our guidelines.” HDC standards consider any house more than 50 years old as historic, and the addition does not change that.

Rundel said the addition gives the home a tri-level appearance, which does not fit any time period. The house already has some vinyl windows, and he shared pictures of other houses in the neighborhood with vinyl windows. Nuckolls suggested caulking the existing windows to improve their energy efficiency, but Rundel and his contractor said some of the windows have rotted. Nuckolls said he did not see serious rot, but commissioners were not able to get close to some of the worst problem areas.

Commissioner Dee Bright reminded the others that the HDC had allowed a historic hotel to replace several windows without even taking a site visit. The windows under discussion face away from the road, and Bright echoed Rundel’s “hodgepodge” description of the house.

Although Nuckolls remained opposed, remaining commissioners approved the new windows. City Historic Preservation Officer Glenna Booth asked for clarification that the decision was based upon very specific circumstances. “This is not a blanket approval for every window in town to change to vinyl,” she said.

The rest of the meeting

Beverly Foust asked permission to add an entry door. She explained that she owned two adjacent properties at 2 Spring St., and access to the second floor of one of those structures is challenging. Although the building overlooks Basin Park, commissioners noted that it is non-contributing, and the new opening will not be visible from the front elevation. All approved the request.

Patrick Burnett, owner of Sherwood Court at 248 W. Van Buren Ave., asked permission to replace doors and trim on the guest cottages. He described “massive water issues” from leaking hot tubs, and from water blowing under doors. The HDC approved fiberglass doors, which Burnett said would hold up better against suitcases and other insults.

After a site visit earlier in the day, the commission approved a project at 135 N. Main St. The carport, built in 2011, is too narrow, and will be removed. The parking pad will be expanded, and a small addition will provide an equipment closet.

At the end of the meeting, the commissioners discussed sidewalks. City council will look at revising the ordinance dealing with sidewalks, and the HDC can offer suggestions. The next meeting of the HDC has been delayed from Feb. 20 to Feb. 21, and a one-hour workshop on this topic will follow the regular agenda. The workshop was scheduled after the meeting because the commission may have site visits before the meeting.

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