2014, November 1 | Saturday 1:55 pm

by Peter Samuel

Mr Jones: At the October 23 hearing HPC14-803 on Lori and Curran Powers place 337E3rd Street I said in public comment that the staff report reflected an unconscionable double standard on review of proposals for asphalt shingle roofing, one permissive wave-through rule for developers and another, restrictive, burdensome, time consuming, contentious rule for homeowners. Homeowners like the Powers are put through the full HPC ‘meat-grinder.’ They are subjected to an adverse staff report calling for them to substitute more expensive roofing materials such as standing seam metal, subjected to workshops and hearings to fight for their right to use the more affordable asphalt. By contrast developers like Comstock and Nexus with plans for scores of new houses with asphalt shingle roofs within the historic district get staff reports with a “Yes” check in the checkbox under “Compliance with HPC Guidelines.”

Staff in their reports on developer plans don’t even discuss whether asphalt shingle roofing conforms with the Historic District Design Guidelines (Guidelines.) So developers don’t have to address the asphalt shingle roofing issue in submissions, workshops or hearings. They are waved through.RobertJones0892

Toward the conclusion of the protracted hearing of the Powers’ case (HPC14-803), you looked in my direction in the audience, Mr Jones, as if answering me – while you echoed the City staff position that developers get waved through because the Guidelines permit asphalt shingle in new construction.

Staff are wrong about the Guidelines, Mr Jones. Consider:

Chapter 10 of the Guidelines titled Guidelines for New Construction  (p137 – 146) has no specific reference to asphalt shingle roofing but its thrust is 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 for specifics. That direction is consistent with the Guidelines’ Introduction which states p10 2. that “New construction and additions are addressed as an aspect of Rehabilitation.”

Chapter 4 on Rehabilitation 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.”

The clear meaning of Chapter 10’s reference back to Chapter 4 is that asphalt shingles are “not permitted” on new construction. Nothing at all can be cited in the Guidelines to support the City staff ‘wave through’ (the ‘Yes’ checkbox for compliance in staff reports) for developers doing asphalt shingles in new construction.

As a matter of fairness and logic developers proposing asphalt shingles in new construction should for now be put through at least the same case-by-case consideration in staff reporting and Commission workshops and hearings as private homeowners wanting to fix their roof with new asphalt shingles.

Let both categories be put through the full HPC ‘meat-grinder.’  Or neither.

There’s a strong argument that if we don’t want to overburden homeowners financially and if we do want to encourage infill development in our large diverse historic district, we must accept asphalt shingle roofing for its sheer cost-effectiveness. (If we had compact homogeneous historic districts like Baltimore, Virginia or DC it might be possible to maintain greater historic rectitude, and exclude asphalt shingle.)

I suggest you recommend to the Commission and the Mayor and Board of Alderman action to clarify the Guidelines. They should be explicit in allowing, or not allowing asphalt shingle roofing. City staff and the Commission currently pretend that the Guidelines are something they are not, and misrepresent the Guidelines to ease the burdens of compliance on developers but not homeowners. This is duplicitous discrimination.

In HPC14-803, it was very gratifying that by a three to two vote your Commission eventually voted down the disgraceful HPC staff recommendation that would have blocked the Powers from fixing their roof. But the Powers should never have been put through the travails of multiple hearings and workshops and many months of delay with a leaking roof, while developers get a wave-through based on staff misrepresentation of the Guidelines.

Peter Samuel

102W3rd St

tel 301 631 1148 mob 240 446 9736


ps At some point the Guidelines and City policy need to be brought into alignment also on fiber-cement siding, pressure-treated wood, composite and engineered lumber, new materials that are being given a free pass by staff in some cases, but not in others.

- editor 2014-10-31





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