Historic District Commission Minutes – May 2, 2018

HISTORIC DISTRICT COMMISSION

MAY 2, 2018

Chairwoman Alexa Silver called the meeting to order at 5:00 p.m. In attendance were Commission members Owen Bailey, Ted Gallo, Barbara Jorgenson (arrived partway through BP2018-41), Ed Minch and Alice Ritchie, Kees de Mooy (Zoning Administrator), Jennifer Mulligan (Town Clerk) and guests.

Ms. Silver stated that the Chestertown Historic District Commission takes its authority from Chapter 93 of the Code of the Town of Chestertown and operates under the Historic District Design Guidelines that were adopted by the Mayor and Council of Chestertown on October 7, 2002 and revised March 7, 2012.

Ms. Silver asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the meeting of April 4, 2018. Ms. Ritchie moved to approve the minutes of April 4, 2018 as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Minch and carried unanimously.

There were five items on the Consent Calendar as follows:

  • BP2018-14 – Robson/DiPasquale, 206 N. Queen – pergola;
  • BP2018-32 – Dan & Ruth Menefee, 507 Cannon Street – shed;
  • BP2018-37 – Williamson, 123 Washington Avenue – replace one window and siding on side of house;
  • BP2018-40 – Kirkpatrick, 234 Cannon Street – wooden storm door to replace aluminum storm door;
  • BP2018-43 – Wasserbly/Edge, 107 S. Water Street – roof replacement.

Ms. Ritchie moved to approve the consent calendar as it was submitted as the following applications were in accordance with the Design Guidelines:

  • BP2018-14 – Robson/DiPasquale, 206 N. Queen – pergola;
  • BP2018-32 – Dan & Ruth Menefee, 507 Cannon Street – shed;
  • BP2018-37 – Williamson, 123 Washington Avenue – replace one window and siding on side of house;
  • BP2018-40 – Kirkpatrick, 234 Cannon Street – wooden storm door to replace aluminum storm door;
  • BP2018-43 – Wasserbly/Edge, 107 S. Water Street – roof replacement.

The motion was seconded by Mr. Gallo and carried unanimously.

The next item on the agenda was BP2018-41 from TL Rentals/Clark at 314 Park Row for a sign. Ms. Silver stated that the only question she had on the application was whether or not the sign would have trim around it.  Mr. de Mooy stated that he worked with the applicant who intended to place trim around the wooden sign. Mr. Bailey moved to approve BP2018-41 as submitted as it was in keeping with the Design Guidelines for signage, was seconded by Mr. Minch and carried unanimously.

The next item on the agenda was BP2018-27 from Yerkes/Findlay-Nelson at 209 N. Water Street for exterior renovations. Mr. Yerkes was present for the application.  Mr. Yerkes stated that this application was first heard in April and the Commission requested that he return with sample materials for the front porch portion of the application.  He said that he portion of the application having to do with the rear porch was approved in April.

Mr. Yerkes stated that the material he was proposing for the railings was extruded polyurethane that would be painted to look like wood once finished. He said that this material has been used for several years by him and it mimicked wood but lasted much longer.  He said that the material (made by a company called Intex) was rigid, with a metal channel for strength that is milled like wood.  It holds paint like the Azec material approved by the Commission in other applications.

Mr. Yerkes stated that the railing he was replacing was not original to the house. Ms. Jorgenson stated that this was a historic residence, making the railing historic.  Mr. Yerkes stated that the railing was not part of the original fabric.  He said that it was pine but had rotted over time.

Mr. Yerkes stated that he thought it would be good for the community and the Commission to consider materials as they change and improve, if appropriate. Ms. Jorgenson stated that she thought the Commission should study the materials rather than make decisions based on a single application.

Mr. Bailey stated that he understood Mr. Yerkes to say that this product was used in Easton’s Historic District. Mr. Yerkes agreed.  Mr. Minch asked if the State of Maryland had an opinion on the material.  Mr. Yerkes stated that the Secretary of Interior Standards indicates that if historic fabric cannot be salvaged or maintained, the material should be in keeping with what is exists; but it does not say it has to be wood.

Ms. Jorgenson stated that Design Guidelines call for porches to be painted or stained. Mr. Yerkes stated that the section for railings on page 41, second paragraph reads, “The use of high quality wood is recommended for porches, rather than pressure-treated woods, composites or vinyl materials”.  He said that is a recommendation, not “shall not” or “will not”.  Mr. Yerkes stated that the Design Guidelines were also written at a time before this material was developed.

Ms. Jorgenson stated that she applauded Mr. Yerkes for bringing a new material before the Commission but she did not think that it could be accepted before studying it, along with other new materials. Ms. Jorgenson stated that the Commission should not fall victim to allowing each new material that comes before them on a case-by-case basis.  She said that there should be a list of appropriate and accepted materials for projects.

Mr. Minch stated that he thought the proposed new material should be accepted and that the Commission had to help the property owners maintain their houses while keeping the look of them intact. He said that the quality of detail in this particular product was obviously good, mimicking wood examples.  Mr. Yerkes stated that the Intex material can be milled the same as wood.

Mr. de Mooy stated that in putting together the Guidelines and as a former builder, he could attest that when extruded products were first put on the market they did not look very good, noting the crisp corners and lines on the material presented. They also did not hold paint.  He asked if there were manufacturer’s specifications on painting and how long it will last.  Mr. Yerkes stated that he could get that data.

Mr. Yerkes stated that Azek has been allowed on new construction in the Historic District, along with Hardiplank. He said that Intex was basically the same material.  Mr. Minch stated that he had fiberglass windows in his house and he would advocate for their use in the Historic District because the paint adheres to it so well.  Mr. Minch stated that the windows were crisp and almost identical wood windows.

Ms. Ritchie asked for detail on the entire front porch remodel. Mr. Yerkes stated that the railings and the columns had not been approved.  Mr. Yerkes stated that the applicant agreed to use wood for the floor that will be painted.

Ms. Silver stated that she said that maintaining original fabric was understood when it was possible, but the replacement in kind is not going to be as high quality as people would like. Ms. Silver stated that plastics and vinyl used to be obvious but it appears that an intentional effort is being made to replicate a wood look.  She said that ultimately the Commission wants to honor the original house and said that the Commission should stop avoiding this issue as there were always going to be new materials.

Ms. Silver stated that the Intex was good quality in that it was strong, solid and paintable. Ms. Jorgenson stated that the Commission hasn’t seen specifications, only the applicant’s word on the material.  Ms. Jorgenson stated that high quality wood was what was recommended for porches.  Mr. Yerkes stated that it is difficult to get high quality woods.  Ms. Jorgenson asked about mahogany or Ipe.  Mr. Yerkes stated that those woods don’t take paint.  Ms. Jorgenson stated that it is understood that when you own a house in the Historic District, there are a set of regulations of what you are permitted to do with the property.

Mr. de Mooy stated that it was important to know the specifications of a product and thought it might be best to table. Ms. Jorgenson agreed, stating that Mr. Yerkes could come back and do what he should have done the first time, which was to bring all of the specifications.

Mr. Yerkes requested that the Commission move along in the agenda while he researched the specifications, as he would prefer to come to a decision this evening. The Commission agreed.

The next item on the application was BP2018-29 from Richard Keaveney at 102 S. Water Street for a rear screen porch. Mr. Rousby Quisenberry (contractor) was present for the application.  He said that there is a pergola and rear deck existing and the applicant intended to install a screening system enclosing the deck.  He had a sample of the material that would attach to the wooden posts for the screen.

Ms. Jorgenson moved to approve BP2018-29 from Richard Keaveney at 102 S. Water Street for a rear screen porch as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Minch and carried unanimously.

The Commission returned to the application for 209 N. Water Street.

Mr. Minch asked if there was a way to approve a project without setting a precedent. Ms. Jorgenson stated that if the Commission allowed it; it was a precedent.  She said that a house like this, on Water Street, was emblematic of what Chestertown is about.

Mr. Minch stated that the Commission could specify that the materials should be painted. Ms. Jorgenson stated that the Guidelines already call for that.  Ms. Jorgenson stated that there was no grain to the product being proposed.  Mr. Yerkes stated that nicely painted wood should not show any grain.

Mr. Yerkes stated that builders used wood because that was the material that they had, but materials are changing. Ms. Jorgenson stated that they were trying to maintain a historic community under a set of guidelines.  Ms. Jorgenson stated that if the Maryland Historic Trust approves this and Talbot County allows it, Mr. Yerkes should have brought that information to the Commission.  Mr. Yerkes stated that this was Chestertown not Talbot County.  He said that what was most important to him was his reputation and he would not use materials that he thought were inappropriate to the Historic District.

Ms. Jorgenson asked if this material had been used in Chestertown. Mr. Yerkes stated that he has used this material multiple times, but he has not in the Historic District.  Mr. Yerkes stated that he was not being adversarial and he felt as though that was the tone of the discussion.  Ms. Jorgenson stated that Mr. Yerkes needed to put on his “big boy” pants.  Mr. Yerkes stated that he was a responsible member of the community and he can propose and discuss something without being attacked and that was what he felt was happening.  Mr. Yerkes stated that he was happy to debate if it was a fair debate.

Ms. Ritchie asked why this material was being proposed over wood. Mr. Yerkes stated that this was certainly more expensive than wood, and he was proposing it because the client likes the material and it is being used on the waterside of the house.  Mr. Yerkes stated that he thought this was a material that would hold up well and should be used more.

Mr. Minch stated that the specifications being shown now did not answer the question as to how long it will hold paint or a good description of the working capabilities. He said that he did like that the fasteners did not show.  Mr. Yerkes stated that the specifications show that paint should only be applied in light colors.

Ms. Jorgenson asked if the column in place was wooden. Mr. Yerkes stated that wood columns existed but were rotted and could not be repaired.  Mr. Yerkes stated that columns similar to these exist in Town.  Ms. Jorgenson asked where in the Historic District the columns were located.  Mr. Yerkes stated that he was not going to give information to the Commission that may implicate a contractor or homeowner.

Ms. Silver stated that it seemed as though Mr. Yerkes liked the durability of the Intex, the fact that it could be painted, and it would hold up to the elements.  Mr. Yerkes agreed, adding that it also looks like wood.  He said that knowing a product would hold up without the concern of maintenance is something the Commission should consider.

Mr. Minch stated that there is a house in the Historic District Commission that underwent a renovation in 2008 and has been painted twice since that time. He said that there is a newer construction on the 300 block of Cannon Street that is having the same issues.

Ms. Silver stated that if the Commission was concerned with how the Historic District Commission looked, requiring people to use materials that were going to require that much more cost in terms of maintenance and time, there was a disservice being done by requiring the “in kind” materials.

Ms. Ritchie stated that she would feel better about approving the columns if she could see one. She said that columns of this nature were permitted on another house and she did not think that they looked appropriate, but the house was not on Water Street.

Mr. Minch stated that he thought what the issue should be is that once the material is painted, does it look as though it could have been original. Mr. Minch stated that the columns Mr. Yerkes was proposing had the correct base and cap and were in proportion to the scale of the porch.

Mr. Yerkes stated that he was proposing this material for use the Historic District because it looked appropriate and would withstand the elements, making it easier on the homeowner in terms of maintenance. Ms. Jorgenson stated that earlier in the meeting Mr. Yerkes said this was recommended by the architect and then asked if the architect found the material or Mr. Yerkes found the material.  He said that their architect recommended it for this house but they have been using it for some time.  Ms. Jorgenson asked if the choice for the material was a coincidence.  Mr. Yerkes stated that he did not understand what Mr. Jorgenson was trying to say to him.  Ms. Jorgenson stated that she was trying to figure out if this was material that he used or the architect wanted him to use it.  Mr. Yerkes stated that the architect was part of his staff.

Ms. Silver stated that it was important the houses in the Historic District maintain their authenticity and integrity. The decision was whether a material that looked like wood, and was going to be longer lasting, requiring less maintenance was the right thing to do, rather than using actual wood.  Ms. Jorgenson stated that the Commission was not supposed to think about cost.  Ms. Silver stated that economic feasibility was in the Design Guidelines and this material was more expensive than wood.

Mr. Minch asked if Mr. Yerkes has painted this material. Mr. Yerkes stated that he has not painted railings but he has painted columns.  Ms. Jorgenson stated that columns are the subject of the Court of Special Appeals case in Annapolis, where plastic columns were installed and had to be removed.  Ms. Jorgenson stated that the homeowner requested approval after installation and it was denied, not because they were installed, but because they did not want artificial materials in the Historic District.

Mr. Minch asked if the Commission would allow the material with a notation that this was not precedent setting. Ms. Jorgenson stated that as a lawyer, and with another lawyer on the Commission, she could say that the term “not precedent setting” did not hold water.  Ms. Ritchie agreed, stating that once allowed, it can’t be disallowed to another person that wants it.

Ms. Silver stated that she had the impression that the Commission was uncomfortable approving a synthetic material, partially due to this particular house on Water Street.

Mr. Yerkes stated that substitutions have been accepted by different manufacturers of materials by the Historic District. He said that he thought it would be illegal if the Commission was telling applicants what materials exactly they could use.  Ms. Jorgenson stated that was not illegal.  Mr. Yerkes stated that a public forum can’t proprietarily spec one company.  Ms. Jorgenson stated that it would be unwise by not illegal.  Mr. de Mooy stated that if an extruded product was approved it would set a precedent in that the next person that comes in and specifies an extruded product the Commission would be likely obligated to approve it.

Mr. Yerkes stated that if the Commission’s position was that the front façade had to remain authentic and other sides of a house were decided on a case-by-case basis that was a rule he would understand. He said that he has not heard that it is, in fact, the rule.

Mr. de Mooy stated that extruded materials have not been approved for railings. Mr. Yerkes stated that he thought the Commission should decide whether if as material improves it would considered or would it be ruled out entirely.

Ms. Ritchie stated that she was not comfortable approving this application for synthetic materials, but would like to explore new materials and know how the Maryland Historic Trust rules on synthetic materials.

Mr. Bailey stated that the new material proposed looks promising, but the Commission needed to do more research before synthetic materials are approved.   He said it was fair to do the research to see if the material was something that could be approved in the future.

Mr. Yerkes stated that his clients do want to get started on the project and asked if he could amend the application for the front porch to be constructed of wood. The Commission agreed to amend the application for the front porch.

Mr. Yerkes stated that the porch roof will remain, although the porch beam needs to be replaced and will be replaced in wood and painted. The porch columns will be replaced in wood.  Southern yellow heart pine or douglas fir will be used for the wood, as they are both high quality exterior materials.  Douglas fir will be used for the railing and replace what exists.  Douglas fir tongue and groove 5/4 x 4 flooring will be used and it will be painted.  The lattice on the bottom will be cedar and have 1” squares.

Ms. Jorgenson moved to approve amended application BP2018-27 for the exterior renovations to the front of 209 N. Water Street as stated by Mr. Yerkes, was seconded by Mr. Minch and carried unanimously.

Ms. Jorgenson stated that she would like to see a booklet of new materials on the market. Ms. Silver stated that it was challenging to stay up with all of the new synthetic materials on the market.  Mr. Yerkes stated that it was important to know about the synthetic materials because if they only used wood materials, they were hurting the environment in some ways.  He said synthetics have their problems, but clear-cutting trees was not as easily sustained as it sounds.

Ms. Mulligan stated that the demolition application for 101 S. Lynchburg Street was withdrawn from the agenda.

Ms. Silver stated that she would like to hold a meeting to discuss HDC procedures and asked that any questions be submitted to her via email. A meeting would be scheduled in the near future.

Ms. Jorgenson asked if the agenda and applications can be posted on the website. Ms. Mulligan stated that the agenda is on the website, but she was not going to begin to post applications on the website.  The agenda gives the addresses of the properties with applications and gives an example of what work they were requesting.  Anyone was welcome to come to Town Hall and look at files.

Ms. Jorgenson asked if there could be a press release or advertisements in the newspaper alerting people to the fact that agendas are online and what to do if someone wants to see an application. She said that if they let people know what is happening and that the Commission is nice and is approving applications.

There being no further business, Ms. Ritchie moved to adjourn the meeting at 6:40 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Jorgenson and carried unanimously.

Submitted by:                                                 Approved by:

Jennifer Mulligan                                           Alexa Silver

Town Clerk                                                     Chair

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