Following a denial from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), Delaware City Council voted to approve an appeal that will allow vinyl windows to be installed in the building at 184 E. Winter St. The appeal received a 5-2 vote in favor of the variance during Monday’s meeting, with council members Luke Farrell and George Hellinger opposing the variance.
Hildebrand Holdings LLC, which is renovating the three buildings that comprise the property at the southwest corner of East Winter Street and Lake Street, went before the HPC on Aug. 25 to seek a certificate of appropriateness for several renovation details. While most of them were approved, the developer’s request for a variance to HPC’s window standards that would allow vinyl windows was not granted.
Matt Hildebrand maintained that installing the HPC standard-permitted aluminum-clad wood windows in the north building would be cost-prohibitive to the project. Despite Hildebrand’s case, HPC maintained, albeit with a split, 4-3 decision, that vinyl windows will not be permitted within the historic district.
With council marking Hildebrand’s last chance to get the vinyl windows approved, he filed for the appeal and was before council for the first reading at the Sept. 27 meeting. Following the initial discussion by council, the ordinance was sent to a second reading where further discussion was held during Monday’s meeting prior to the vote.
“I think we all appreciate the work that HPC does in preserving the historic downtown and the general history of the city of Delaware,” Vice Mayor Kent Shafer said. “But I think we also have an interest in seeing people in the community improve buildings. There has to be a balance in preserving the standards that HPC presents while also keeping in mind the costs that people incur. Can we strike a balance so that we aren’t unnecessarily costing people more and discouraging them from developing the building?”
Shafer pointed out that even the HPC’s vote was split on the matter, and he added that while the building is within the historic downtown district, the building itself isn’t particularly historic.
Councilwoman Lisa Keller, who serves on the HPC and was one of the commissioners to vote to approve the original variance request, said, “I greatly appreciate the work that my fellow commissioners do on that commission, and they do an incredible job of making sure that the history of our downtown and the historic buildings is preserved.”
However, Keller said the building sits on the edge of the historic district and in an area she considers to be “blighted.”
“Their willingness to take this large building and restore it, make it so that it is no longer a blighted area, is a huge win for the city,” Keller said.
Keller went on to say that she believes that, given the area the building is in, the windows are likely to be broken after they are installed and prior to the owners being able to get tenants into the building. “For that reason, I see the substantial economic hardship involved in requiring expensive windows we know will be broken, for business owners who are really giving us a huge benefit to that east side neighborhood,” she said.
Councilman Drew Farrell said that while he can’t speak to the gap in quality between vinyl windows and what HPC recommends, he didn’t want a vote to be seen as the city lowering its standards for that particular area. Councilman George Hellinger said he believes the owner of the building should have been aware of the standards for restoring a building in that area, calling it a “buyer beware” scenario.
Councilman Cory Hoffman questioned the severity of the financial hardship that would supposedly be created if vinyl windows aren’t allowed, but he also said he failed to see how vinyl windows would drastically reduce the historical nature of the building.
“It’s hard for me to see how these vinyl windows subtract from the historical character,” Hoffman said. “But the historic people are acting like this is nuclear winter for historical preservation. It’s hard for me to see that point of view.”
Hoffman did acknowledge that voting to allow the vinyl windows would seemingly lead to an involuntary, unofficial change to HPC’s window standards because the city would be hardpressed to say no to like-minded future developers. Councilman Stephen Tackett echoed a similar sentiment about a precedent being created, although he said he would be inclined to allow the windows given how badly the area where the building sits needs to be reinvigorated.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.