HPC says no to windows

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By Patrick Yost


For the second time, the Madison Historic Preservation Commission has denied a Billups Avenue resident’s request to replace 16 window sashes on her historic house.

On Tuesday, August 9 the commission heard more than an hour of testimony discussion from applicant Lydia Norburg. In June the commission had denied Norburg’s first request and the Madison City Council in July had remanded the request back to the preservation commission as a de facto appeal.

Norbury last week said as part of preparation for the meeting she had filed several freedom of information requests regarding the commission’s decisions, primarily on window replacement. The commission has consistently ruled that the windows at Norburg’s residence should be repaired and renovated but not replaced.

Norburg argued that her research led her to believe that members of the preservation commission received preferential treatment.

“Maybe I needed to try and get appointed to the board before I made my application,” she said.

She said specifically that commission member Flynn Cleburn had made a similar request and had been approved, with condition, by the commission.

“If you act first and get permission later that seems like the way to go, but I’m a rules person,” she said.

“I am asking that you give me the same (latitude) you gave commissioner Cleburne,” she said.

Cleburn said work to repair windows at his residence included repairing the windows that could be repaired and replacing windows beyond repair. “It’s going to vary by what it is,” he said. He also said that Norburg was asking for blanket approval to replace all the window sashes in her house. He maintained there was a difference. “Some of the things you mentioned were not applicable.”

At issue is whether or not the window sashes can be repaired. According to Madison Planner Ken Kocher, several experts have inspected the sashes and have determined that they could be repaired.

“It appears demonstrably that these windows are repairable,” said commission member Eric Joyce. “I think that’s our obligation.”

Board Chairman Richard Simpson suggested Norburg amend her application to include repair of windows that could be repaired and replacement of window sashes that were beyond repair. Norburg rejected the suggestion, stating in part, that the process had begun in March and she did not desire to wait another month on a new application.

“We’ve going over this since March. I would like to paint my house. It needs it.”

The commission also suggested that Norburg consider repairing the sashes. “If the plan is to repair them you don’t need a (Certificate of Appropriateness),” Kocher said.

“It takes months to mill sashes to a historic home,” Norburg countered.

Norburg said on reflection that she should have never come before the commission, that she should have simply started repairing the sashes instead. “That’s what I should have done. I sure should have.”

The commission voted 4–0 to deny the request.

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