Historic District Commission, Minutes|

HISTORIC DISTRICT COMMISSION
MAY 6, 2015

Chairman Michael Lane called the regular meeting to order at 4:00 p.m. In attendance were Commission members John Ames, Rob Busler, Alexa Cawley and Lucy Maddox, Kees de Mooy, Zoning Administrator, Jennifer Mulligan, Town Clerk and guests.

Mr. Lane 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.

Mr. Lane asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the meeting of April 1, 2015. Mr. Busler moved to approve the minutes as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Ames and carried unanimously.

The Consent Calendar was as follows:
a. BP2015-48 – Gina Candy, 203 N. Queen Street – fence;
b. BP2015-50 – Baker/Laucik, 103 S. Queen Street – handicap ramp;
c. BP2015-54 – Edge Construction/Peter Minturn, 216 Washington Avenue – roof.

Ms. Maddox moved to approve the following applications as they were in accordance with the Historic District Commission Guidelines:
a. BP2015-48 – Gina Candy, 203 N. Queen Street – fence;
b. BP2015-50 – Baker/Laucik, 103 S. Queen Street – handicap ramp;
c. BP2015-54 – Edge Construction/Peter Minturn, 216 Washington Avenue – roof.
The motion was seconded by Mr. Busler and carried unanimously.

The next item on the agenda was BP2015-47 from Park Row Partners for concept approval of an interpretive panel to be installed at 302-304 Park Row. Mr. Peter Newlin was present for the application.

Mr. Lane stated that the question before the Commission was whether or not the Historic District Commission would allow an interpretive panel on private property. He said that the wording of the panel would be the applicant’s purview.

Mr. Busler asked if the Council also had to approve the placement of an interpretive panel. Mr. Lane stated that it would need Historic District Commission approval and may need other approvals. Ms. Cawley asked if information of the panel may conflict with current zoning and asked if that would present a problem.

Mr. de Mooy stated that signage as a whole was an issue of discussion in Chestertown. He said that size, location, and the need for the sign was more important than anything else. Mr. de Mooy stated that the Council had not seen this application but was looking into directional signage for the Town.

Ms. Cawley stated that if this was approved any person owning property in the Historic District could have a panel to give the life story of their house. She said she was uncertain of the need for an interpretive panel, especially since the history of the building can’t be confirmed. She said that signage should be based on factual evidence.

Mr. de Mooy stated that a letter submitted by Mr. Newlin suggested that the property might be included in the African American History Tour and asked if there was a plan for additional signage for the tour properties. Ms. Maddox stated that there was no signage connected with that tour; just a map. Ms. Cawley stated that the interpretive panel would make more sense if it was part of a tour.

Mr. de Mooy stated that from a zoning standpoint, his position would be that the placement was appropriate from a safety standpoint, but that it boiled down to whether the Commission was going to approve the interpretive panel based on the Historic District Guidelines.

Mr. de Mooy stated that he thought the information on the sign should be historically appropriate and not become an advertisement for a business. Mr. Newlin stated that he thought it should be policy to review content on signs, noting that the sign at this point was only a concept.

Mr. de Mooy stated that extra layers of review would be required if the Historic District Commission began ruling on the accuracy of historical content. He said that if material is presented and there is support from the Maryland Historical Trust that they are accurate; that should suffice for Historic District approval.

Mr. Newlin stated that page 3 of his presentation showed possible content for the panel, including the elevations, which demonstrated the interior layout of the structure. He said that the likelihood of the other buildings on Park Row needing interpretive signage should also be considered. Mr. Newlin stated that the building’s layout was a classic example of Jim Crow segregation history, noting that there were very few buildings that illustrated segregation in such a clear way as this building did. He said that there was a wall between the middle of the building and you cannot get from one side of the building to another; even a doctor would have to go out to the porch to access the other side of the building.

Mr. Newlin stated that the property was zoned commercial and had businesses struggling to survive. He said it lacked connection with the rest of the commercial district of Town on the other side of High Street. He said that an interpretive panel would invite visitors and locals to tour the Town as the Historical Society suggests.

Mr. Newlin stated that the Historic District Commission could approve the sign in concept and he could tell the Maryland Historical Society that the Commission cares about saving the building. Mr. Newlin stated that he put money into the building to keep it from collapsing and he was trying to take the building through a certification process to save both the inside and outside so it would have Maryland Trust Approval and Maryland Park Service approval, and said that if he could not get those approvals, he would return with a permit for demolition.

Mr. de Mooy stated that if Mr. Newlin believed this is a Jim Crow Era building, he should get support not from the Historic District Commission but with a letter of support from an historian of the Jim Crow Era.

Ms. Mulligan read a letter dated August 13, 2014 from Robert Bryan, President of the Historical Society of Kent County into the record as follows, “The building is important to the community because of the part it played during segregation when older citizens have told the Society they remember the doctor’s office having two very distinct entrances: one for “colored” and the other for “white” patients. After this discovery, the Society plans to include this site as a part of our Chestertown African American Walking Tour. We hope that the restored building will attract visitors to Kent County, thereby stimulating our heritage tourism industry”.

Mr. de Mooy stated that a transcript of oral records and a letter of support from an historian was what was required to make the argument for a Jim Crow building, not concept approval for an interpretive sign.

Mr. Ames stated that a statement from someone at the Kent County Historical Society is not evidence. He said if this was a segregated doctor’s office up to 1964, there had to be local residents who remembered and would give testimony verifying the use of the building. Mr. Newlin stated that was asking someone to remember something from before 1940.

Mr. Lane stated that the request was for concept approval of an interpretive sign and that was what the Commission had to approve or deny.

Mr. Busler stated that he was supportive of getting verification of this historical information for the Town, but because of the sign issue in Town and the precedent this would set for private properties in the Historic District, he would propose that a sign of this type be disapproved. The motion failed for lack of a second.

Ms. Cawley stated that she thought markers of this nature were important to the Town and to the County if the historical information was accurate. Mr. Ames agreed stating that he thought the information would be relatively easy to obtain.

Mr. Newlin stated that he does have some evidence from a comparable building in Western Maryland. He said that his building was set up to operate exactly as that Jim Crow building operated.

Mr. Ames made a motion to table the application until there was evidence for the historical accuracy of the interpretive panel, was seconded by Ms. Maddox and carried with four in favor, Mr. Busler abstained.

The last item on the agenda was BP2015-49 from Helena Hermes and Erik Walter to discuss in concept the demolition of the property located at 224 S. Water Street. Ms. Hermes and Mr. Walter were present for the application, along with Mr. and Mrs. Walter Adams, current owners of the property in question.

Mr. Lane read the application for demolition of the property and to replace it with a 2-story carriage house. Mr. Walter stated that the existing house at 224 S. Water Street was a tear down and they would like to remove it and build a carriage house on the property. Mr. Walter stated that he has not yet purchased the property and was waiting to see if the Historic District Commission would approve demolition before he moved any further.

Mr. Adams stated that this structure at one time was the other half of the neighboring house at 222 S. Water Street. At one point in time the owners, who were sisters, had an argument and they split the house down the middle. The house at 224 S. Water Street was reoriented to fit on the lot with the addition of a front façade.

Mr. Lane stated that in the past when a property was demolished, the new property was similar in scale and design. Mr. Busler stated that there were similar buildings to the one proposed on the street, noting that there would be living quarters on the second floor so it would still be considered residential.

Mr. de Mooy stated that a new building should be similar in size, scale and appearance to blend in with the existing streetscape. He said that the street was a “hodge podge” right now, but there is concept approval by the Planning Commission for a four-condominium unit on the corner.

Mr. Adams stated that the lot itself was narrow in front and spread out in the back. He thought that the best fit for a structure was to push it back of the site and argued that a carriage house would fit perfectly in the streetscape.

Mr. Ames moved to approve the application in concept for demolition of the existing building and to construct a two-story carriage house, contingent on approval of design for the building, including residential living on the second floor, was seconded by Ms. Cawley and carried unanimously.

Mr. Lane stated that if that was going to take place there should be a letter from a structural engineer or other expert stating that the building could not be salvaged. Mr. de Mooy stated that he had been in the building and could condemn it.

There being no further business, Ms. Cawley moved to adjourn the meeting at 5:10 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Ames and carried unanimously.

Submitted by:
Jennifer Mulligan
Town Clerk

Approved by:
Michael Lane
Chairman

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