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Application pushes HLC guidelines

By Staff | Sep 15, 2011

Monday Shepherdstown Historic Landmarks commissioners were gridlocked over a decision of a closed porch on a Washington Street home before deciding to recommend approval, with Commissioner Alice Chamakian voting against the application.

Barry Silverman and Kathleen Stratton applied to put a new addition on their 19th-century home, which includes a porch not original to the structure. Silverman said they believed the back porch was added sometime in the 1970s.

Architect Andy Singletary explained the scope of the project. Plans include removing the existing shed roof over the porch behind the home while enclosing the first- and second-floor porches with glass. A patio and walkway would be added next to the enclosed living area.

Commissioners questioned the addition’s visibility from the street as well as the project’s adherence to the HLC guidelines.

Commissioner John Shank identified a guideline, which clearly states, “Porches should not be enclosed with wood, glass or other materials which would alter the porch’s open appearance.”

Chakmakian said she was not as concerned with enclosing the porch as much as she was with the addition’s visibility from the street, which, according to conceptual designs, will be able to be seen from the street. Chakmakian said should the addition be setback from the home, she would not have had as much of a problem with it.

The HLC’s guidelines also state that additions should be “differentiated by use of setbacks or other devices.” Singletary said the design of the enclosed area would differ from that of the original home, to clearly show that it is an addition and a separate living space. But, he also said that parts of the porch would stay, like the porch posts.

Commissioner Jay Hurley was torn because of the guidelines HLC follows.

“It’s pushing the boundaries,” he said. “But it is in the back, most of it not to be seen.”

“We like the design, it’s just the bloody guidelines,” Shank said.

Chair Hank Willard then began a discussion about Shepherdstown transitioning through the years.

“All structures should be adaptable from one generation to the next,” he said. “But if this is what goes on in a historic district, you don’t have one.”

He cited having guidelines drafted after the U.S. Department of the Interior’s, and Singletary said he believed the department would be in favor of this application for it is distinguishing itself as an addition and not affecting a contributing historic structure.

“I think the point that Andy is making is the whole history of the town, not the first history of the town,” said Zoning Officer Harvey Heyser.

Singletary said while he would hear other ideas from commissioners regarding the addition, his main goal was to achieve Silverman and Stratton’s vision.

After about an hour’s worth of discussion, Hurley motioned to recommend approval, noting that the design pushes the limits of the guidelines, reflecting the existing porch. It was passed by a 2-1 vote.

The next HLC meeting will be Monday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.