2014, July 10 | Thursday 1:05 am

by Peter Samuel

Chapter 10 of the Guidelines (p137 – 146) covers New Construction and stresses the need for compatibility with existing and nearby buildings in the historic district. It says under D. Design 4.Texture p139:

“Materials should be compatible with nearby historic buildings in texture, size, shape, color and scale….”

Under G. Materials, Elevations etc, 1. Materials p142 it says:

“The materials outlined in Chapter 4 are suggested for use in new construction and are generally considered to be compatible throughout the historic district. Other materials may also be considered compatible and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis…”

So now we are directed by the Guidelines back to Chapter 4 as to which procedure (general clearance for use, or case by case consideration) might apply.

Chapter 4 part N. Roofing Materials says on asphalt shingle use 5. page 61:

“Asphalt shingles can be used to replace existing asphalt or asbestos shingles and on additions, but otherwise they are not permitted unless evidence of their use exists under later roofs.”

Since there is by definition no “existing” material in new construction – everything is new – the clear meaning of Chapter 10’s reference to Chapter 4 is that the use of asphalt shingles is “not permitted” on new construction.

At a minimum staff wanting to follow the Guidelines should take the position that asphalt shingles need to be reviewed on a case by case basis. Even that degree of tolerance is thrown into question by 9, this “Other” meaning that asphalt shingles are “not permitted” :

“Other roofing materials may be approved on a case-by-case basis…” (p61)MaxSqASonRidge1247

We’ve just been instructed at 5. higher in the page that asphalt shingles are not permitted (except as in-kind replacement) so the Guidelines – as they stand – can best be read as not permitting asphalt shingles in new construction.

Yet City officials have decided it’s OK to use asphalt shingles for new construction and staff reports never, to our knowledge, question them. They are not examined on a case-by-case basis either.

They simply get waved through as meeting Guidelines.

Asked about this Matthew Davis, the City’s Division Manager of Comprehensive Planning emails us:

“Asphalt shingles have been around for a long time (well over 50 years) and so are an acceptable material on new construction…. The current guidelines were adopted in 2009 after approximately three years of work, public meetings and ultimate adoption by the elected Board of Aldermen at that time.”

But of course Mr Davis’ historic preservation staff are not following the Guidelines.


(1) the Board of Aldermen intended to approve asphalt shingles in new construction but the drafting process was so sloppy that the Guidelines got written with the opposite of their intent, or

(2) we have a case of executive lawmaking, Obama-like, being asserted by staff over the Guidelines as approved by the Board of Aldermen who did not intend asphalt shingles on new construction

It would nice to have City staff abide by the Guidelines they are usually such sticklers about and question proposals for asphalt shingles in new construction. Or, and this is our preference, the Guidelines should be amended by the Board of Aldermen to recognize the acceptability of asphalt shingles in the Historic District.

As they stand the Guidelines are a mess which allows arbitrary and capricious obstruction by City staff, and fosters a sense among citizens that historic preservation is an inside racket. editor 2014-07-05

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