Mr Roembke: Congratulations on your win at the Historic Preservation Commission last night. I think Dan Yates’ assessment of the Hawthorns’ poor condition clinched it with the Commission. Plus the landscape plan of John Gamba. I hear rumors that your leading opponents on the Commission (Parnes and Tydings) were not in attendance last night because they are on an expenses paid cruise to Alaska? Who could have arranged that?
Anyway, back to last night, after the two tied votes (2/2) I saw it going to interminable workshops like your neighbor Jennifer Weinberg down the street at 107 Record. A paving project in her front garden took about a year to resolve at the HPC. And she had not a single neighbor opposing her. Ms Murphy just didn’t like Weinberg’s design.
I spoke in favor of your case going to a workshop. I hope you’ll forgive my push for such cruel and unusual punishments. I thought that while the Guidelines – the Koran of the warring historic preservation faithful – allow of a thousand different interpretations 116 Record Street was one case where there was a clear public interest in City review of the planting, what with the fiasco over the removal of the boxwoods and the lack of any street trees to offset the loss of the Hawthorns. And it is a very public style of building with such a small setback from Record St and a prominent presence on three streetscapes.
But realistically the last thing to expect in this kind of government regulation is logic or consistency.
My sense was that three of the four the commissioners in attendance last night just wanted to be rid of the case. So you hit the jackpot 3/1. The Hawthorns can come down.
Can I offer some suggestions that might address some of the complaints of your neighbors. Or at least minimize their angst.
1. Try to get five or six tall thin street trees in the narrow planting strip between the curb and the sidewalk. Dan Yates of Bartlett Tree Experts gives this advice:
“There are a lot of good trees that could be planted (in this narrow strip.) ’Green Vase’ or ‘Musashino’ zelkova does well in limited root zones and poor soil, and they both have a more narrow form than the straight zelkova. Hedge maple (Acer campestre) is a good medium sized maple also available in a more fastigate form. Seedless sweetgum is a pretty tree – there are a couple of varieties: one is more seedless than the other. Swamp white oak is a great tree for a long life and stately appearance and would do alright in a limited root zone – it’s just likely to not reach mature size potential. I also like sawtooth oak, but its slightly messier for a street tree.”
These would balance the street trees on the west side of Record Street in several years time and help with the tree canopy everyone wants. With those trees by the curb you could perhaps do fewer trees between the sidewalk and the building giving the front a more open appearance at standing eye level.
2. To reduce the de-greening shock to the neighbors I propose you phase the felling of the Hawthorns. Numbering the trees 1 to 5, south to north, you should have your contractor remove #3 and #4 immediately. These are in the worst health and scrappiest appearance. Plus they are on either side of your entry steps, the area you, validly in my opinion, want to open up to the view of the building. Please if you plant Dogwoods get at least a foot of decent topsoil for them to grow in, be sure to have good drainage. The very sickly condition of the two Hawthorns here may be in part due to their awful clay bed and lack of drainage. Plus that stupid little shin-height brick wall could limit drainage.
If you want a spectacularly flowering tree that is better able to handle Frederick’s awful clay better than Dogwoods, there’s the deciduous Magnolia Soulangiana or saucer magnolia. But with good draining soil Cornus Kousa dogwoods will do fine. They do flower much longer (though the puriosts will say they aren’t really ‘flowers’ but bracts or colored leaves,)
Back to the Hawthorns. I’d strongly urge you to leave the removal of #1 and #2 a while. They’re in considerably better health than the other three and they overlook the sunken garden. They could be left for now, providing some mass of foliage while your other plantings take hold. Have tree experts do a minimal treatment and reshaping of these two. By all means take them out in three or four years time if they still look sickly, but leave them to maintain some foliage mass in the interim. On Hawthorn #5 I am ambivalent. It is kind of E rating in health with #1 D, #2 D, #3 F, #4 F, #5 E. Given that the most aggrieved neighbors are on West 2nd, #5 could be left for now, but taken out next Fall after this year’s planting has had a good season’s growth.
3. Firm up your plans for screening the parking lot off West 2nd Street. My inclination was to put in a fence with perennial plantings in front of it. But of course you’d have to go back to the Commission to get a permit for that.
If it was mine I would NOT spend money on taking up the asphalt and putting in a ‘greener’ paving. I’d focus on the screening plants. First you’ll need to get some heavy equipment in there to dig out the roots of the Euonymus and the boxwood stumps, then good draining topsoil. Once it’s screened the paving won’t be an issue because no one will see it. Besides new paving will require an HPC permit!
With City bureaucrats like Lisa Murphy playing little power games with the historic preservation Guidelines you never know what you’re getting into. Intriguing was your comment at last night’s hearing that Ms Murphy had given you her permission (they call it ’administrative approval’?) for the removal of the old boxwood trees – the act that has most angered your neighbors. Insensitive dummies, both of you!
Anyway what’s done is done. I can see you are working hard to repair the damage, social as well as landscape. Meanwhile that’s one beautiful slate roof you now have being installed atop 116! Gorgeous.