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Commission denies permits

By Staff | May 27, 2011

The Shepherdstown Planning Commission denied resident William Struna his third permit application in five years to replace “severely deteriorating” window sashes on his home on West New Street.

Prior to the planning commission hearing testimony regarding the application, Commission President Josh Stella cited Section 9-301 of the Planning and Zoning Ordinance, which applies to Shepherdstown’s historic district. The section of Title 9 aims to “safeguard the heritage of the town by preserving the district therein,” “stabilize and improve property values,” “foster civic beauty, “strengthen the local economy” and “promote the use and preservation of the Historic District for the education, welfare and pleasure of the residents of the municipal corporation.”

Struna’s attorney Susan Thompson asked two questions Are the windows reparable? Can they be rebuilt?

Thompson said because the sashes are rotting on his home, the only other option is replacement. She presented the model replacement window by Anderson Windows to the planning commission, which she said will have a custom-made sash with thermopane glass.

“He really wants to do something that’s good for the house,” she said, noting he does not want to disrupt the historic nature of the home or town.

“What we’re saying is he simply can’t do this project the way you’re asking him to,” Thompson said.

David Gibney of Historic Restoration Specialists, which the town hired in March to issue a report on the state of the windows, said he felt strongly that they are repairable and demonstrated to the commission how his company goes about repairing older windows. He said Struna’s windows simply have not been cared for which is why they appear rotted to an untrained eye.

“They’re part of the original fabric to the house,” he said.

He added later, “Those windows there are beautiful. They should stay beautiful, and they should be repaired.”

Commissioners were concerned about various issues, including the historical significance of the home and the windows falling within the historical period, as well as Struna’s intent to replace the windows and total cost of ownership and upfront cost of the project.

Thompson stated when Struna inherited the home in he originally wanted to sell the home, but he has since decided to reside in it. Stella asked if there were comparisons on the home’s value if the windows were not replaced, if they were replaced or if they were repaired.

“Has he put it on the market to see if it would sell as is?” asked Commissioner Teresa Trainor.

However, Thompson said he was instructed to replace the windows because the value of the home would be significantly less if he did not. She also said because of the existing state of the windows and the ongoing conflict with the planning commission and historic landmarks commission could make the house sell for $53,000 less.

Stella also inquired about the total cost of ownership of new and repaired windows over a 20-year period.

Gibney said repaired windows would need touch ups and general maintenance. He said down the road, should it need it, they can always be repaired.

“New windows are disposable,” Gibney said.

He said if a new window broke or the thermopane become ineffective, 10 or 20 years from now, the same make or model might be discontinued.

The commission unanimously voted to deny the application based upon Section 9-902 of the ordinance and the evidence, testimony, HLC draft minutes and its recommendation to deny the application presented to the planning commission. Commissioners also recommended that the applicant participate in a workshop with HLC as requested by the governing body if he so desires.

The next planning commission meeting will take place Monday, June 20.