An appeal by Hildebrand Holdings LLC for a garage door storefront design for a building at 184 E. Winter St. was denied by Delaware City Council on Monday.
The appeal was in response to the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC)’s denial of a certificate of appropriateness in June for the garage door storefront, which the commission deemed did not meet its design review guidelines. The commission also said the proposal did not qualify for one or more of the substantial economic hardship or unusual circumstance elements that sometimes may dictate a variance.
Hildebrand Holdings took ownership of the building, which dates back to approximately 1860, in June 2021. It is comprised of three adjoining and interconnected buildings. The north building now contains four residential apartments and the original retail space. The south building, which was previously used as retail and then storage, is now being used as a garage for storage.
The middle building, previously used as retail, will continue to be used as a retail space for a future tenant.
Previously, Hildebrand Holdings was granted an appeal by the council for the installation of vinyl windows in the north building after HPC denied the request in 2021. Monday’s appeal centered on the north building retail unit, which currently has a traditional aluminum plate glass storefront design.
In its request for a garage door storefront, Hildebrand Holdings contended that a future tenant would need a larger entrance to accommodate deliveries, materials, and furnishings. The owners suggested a garage door would also provide more security and light.
According to city documents for the appeal, HPC did approve a double French patio door with a transom window on the Lake Street elevation of the north building, which “creates a larger entrance for this retail unit.” However, the owners have said doing the storefront as previously approved by HPC would cost approximately $22,000, while the proposed garage door would cost approximately $11,000.
In the documents, city staff cautioned the council about the repeated granting of appeals to an individual property unless details of significant hardship necessitating such requests can be provided.
“While the current appeals request would result in less cost for the applicant, the submitted request does not specifically address the criteria of review to constitute substantial economic hardship or unusual and compelling circumstances in accordance with Section 1190.06(d)(2),” the document states.
HPC Chairwoman Sherry Riviera was on hand during Monday’s meeting to summarize the commission’s reasoning for denying the garage door request.
“With all the applications we received from the Hildebrands, I think the commission really did a fine job in working with them,” Riviera said. “Most of their applications had several pieces and parts to them … We worked with them, trying to help to tweak, change, or adapt some of their ideas to the point where it could get to the approval stage.”
Riviera noted the commission approved most of the requests from the owners, which included “a lot of variances” to the HPC guidelines.
She added, ”When this (request) came up, it was sort of a shock for, I think, most of the commissioners … It just seemed that we helped them so much, and then it got to this (request), and it was way out there and way beyond our architectural standards. It was way beyond our mandate as a commission to preserve and protect the buildings within the Historic District.”
Cortney Hildebrand, who owns the building along with her husband, said the issue with the previously approved storefront was that after the informal approval by HPC, the installer’s price for the project had doubled. Attempts to pivot to different installers have been unsuccessful for several reasons, she added, most notably because of a lack of installers close enough to Delaware.
Councilman Cory Hoffman noted that while he, individually, doesn’t believe the garage door would significantly detract from the building’s historical nature, it’s not the council’s job to make that decision. In an appeal process, he said the council is charged with simply determining whether or not the decision from HPC was made with all circumstances considered fairly.
Vice Mayor Kent Shafer noted the appeal process is important because there are circumstances when an appeal is warranted, as was the case with the previous approval by the council for vinyl windows.
He added, “In this case, however, I think the garage door is such a significant departure from what we would expect in that kind of a building that it would be difficult to approve that. But if we can do something like (HPC’s suggestion), if we can work to make that happen, I think you would get what you need, and we would be happy with it, too.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.