Renovation efforts on a blighted downtown town house were set back after the Frederick Historic Preservation Commission denied a property owner’s window and door replacement plans.

The commission rejected the request to replace 17 windows and the main entrance door at 109 W. South St. by a unanimous vote Thursday.

The decision was also recommended by Christina Martinkosky, one of the city’s historic preservation planners, because the original windows and doors were reparable and should be preserved.

Martinkosky also recommended against the replacement vinyl-clad windows proposed as replacements because the materials do not meet the requirements for the Frederick Town Historic District.

The decision marks the latest in a series of struggles between the city and the property owner, Income One LLC. The increasingly tense communication between Martinkosky and Garrett Adler, one of the principals of the business entity that owns the town house, was highlighted in emails included in the staff report for the application heard Thursday.

The emails detail several instances in which the property owners changed or demolished certain aspects of the 1880 structure without first asking for the requisite city approvals.

Most recently, several of the second-story windows slated to be replaced as part of the application were removed without historic preservation commission approval, according to the staff report.

Several commission members voiced concern with Adler’s renovation plans, highlighting the building’s historic significance. The property was built in 1880, according to Sanborn maps.

“I’m really upset about the way this property has been treated,” said commission member Carrie Albee. Albee called the removal of windows without commission approval, as well as the replacement plans proposed, “totally inappropriate.”

Commission member Dan Lawton agreed. He said the renovation work was an opportunity to showcase an iconic historic structure or to bastardize it.

“We really need to encourage you to go in the right direction,” he told Adler.

Adler acknowledged that he wasn’t “as well-versed as I should have been” regarding the need to get city approval before changing or removing certain building components. However, he defended some of those removals as necessary.

The rotting wooden boards removed from the porch without commission approval, for example, posed a safety hazard that the city’s code enforcement department highlighted in a recent code violation, Adler said.

Adler explained the removal of windows as an accident that occurred due to a miscommunication with the contractor hired for interior renovation work. Once he realized what happened, he salvaged the original windows.

In an interview before the public hearing, he expressed frustration with the commission and Martinkosky for what he called red tape and a lack of cooperation.

“It’s been a definite nightmare,” Adler said of efforts to renovate the town house.

The property was one of 30 identified on the city’s blighted property and property watch list for a total of more than 20 code violations, some still open and others now resolved. The city faced difficulties getting the previous owner to bring the property up to code, The News-Post previously reported.

Income One LLC purchased the property for $37,000 at a tax sale in September 2014, although the official transfer of ownership was not recorded with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation until March of this year, according to online property records. Adler said he and his partners hoped to renovate and either sell or lease the property, as they have done with nearly 30 other properties locally and nationwide since 2008.

Many of the group’s other renovation projects centered on blighted properties — Adler estimated 10 to 15 of the properties they’d renovated faced code violations at the time they were purchased — but none were subject to historic regulations, Adler said. Although the city made the need to address open code violations clear at the time of the sale, Adler said he never received information about the requirements for renovation work in the historic district.

“Had I known what this would become, I might not have even started down this road,” Adler said. “Even at this point, I’m considering just selling it.”

As a condition of its vote Thursday, the commission required Adler to restore the original windows to the building. If he can prove that individual windows are so dilapidated that they cannot be reinstalled, however, city staff members may approve replacement windows on a case-by-case basis.

Additional exterior renovation work will also be subject to the historic district guidelines. Minor work may be approved administratively, but major changes or demolitions require a commission public hearing.

The property currently has eight open code violations, all issued in September, according to the city’s code enforcement database. It also remains as a property to watch on the city blight list, which is updated quarterly.

Follow Nancy Lavin on Twitter: @Nancy_Lavin228.

Nancy Lavin covers social services, demographics and religion for The Frederick News-Post.

(21) comments

lewisantq

I think many of the commenters have a "window fetish", reflecting the erroneous view that ripping out windows and replacing them with "modern efficient windows will solve your heating problems. This is a view that is fueled by the constant marketing efforts of window replacement companies. Even old leaky windows have a minor effect of the heating efficiency of old homes. The general lack of insulation is the primary culprit in heat loss from houses. Laying down a layer of insulation in the attic will do more to reduce heat loss that replacing all the windows in a house and it is much, much cheaper. Wholesale replacement of windows is a fool's mission which results in an investment payback period of almost a generation.. There are numerous ways to increase window efficiency while maintaining the historic integrity of a building. Contractors who work in Frederick and have experience working on historic houses have many innovative techniques for resolving these problems. Bob Lewis

jwhamann

It was a while back, but I remember in the News-Post a story about a beauty shop just up the street from this house that was allowed to put in window frames that were non-compliant with HPC. Anyone else remember this?

mickschley

I sold a house on 4th street last year that I owned for a little less than 10 years. When I purchased this historic rowhome built in 1900 it had been completely remodeled by the seller and had and still has all vinyl, energy efficient windows that were approved by the city. Not sure how this happened but shouldn't a single allowance set precedence for all properties? It's one thing to preserve history, it's another to be regressive and ignorant. What's next, telling all downtown home owners they can only heat/cool their houses by shoveling coal in the basement? Ridiculous.

joelp77440

Funny you should mention it but a one point the HPC had lobbied to extend their reach beyond exterior but also some interior aspects as well. Not sure the story of why that did not fly, thank God, but I bet if the HPC had approval, they would never approve forced air or air conditioning. They also wanted to expand their reach to the houses on 3rd and college terrace, that also did not fly.

cldeboin

Although I'm all for "renovation" efforts; as with so many Frederick City older homes, there is (very clearly) chipping lead based paint, (1), and, far too often, lead pipes in the home itself, or (otherwise) asbestos insulation around dirt cellar basement pipes.

Hammer

I'm betting this property gets sold at a premium as "historic"!

joelp77440

Someone should start a petiion to get the Aldermen to make a change, in anyway, to the window ordiance. At least start in the non-street front windows which would be a easier first step. I am tired of freezing my but off in the winter in my bedroom. I would start it but due to the sensitive nature of my job, I can't do it lobby in anyway. I'll sign it for sure.

joelp77440

This HPC original window things drives me nuts. I lived in Boston, DC and other places in row houses were we had historic recreation widows, with modern energy saving glass and frames. They are not cheap but the have the historic look and you don't freeze in the winter. Why this HPC is so ridged and backwards I will never know. The aldermen need to need to change the rules on windows (espeically in the back) and rein in the HPC, at least on the window replacement issues and gutter issues (again in the back of the house). The rest of the landlord complaints are invaild and he should have known better.

ccf84

The HDC is causing a lot of blighted properties. Where I live in the HDC there are 2 houses that have been vacant and on the market for years, as no one wants to buy them and have to fix them according to the HDC rules. So they continue to sit empty and deteriorate. They would have sold much sooner if not for the HDC rules. There is nothing historic about these properties other than they are old. I can't even believe our street is in the HDC what a joke it has become. I'm all for preserving historic places, but this has went too far.

jerseygrl42

absurdity at work here

Dwasserba

This is how it is. These don't just "flip." Big difference between "restoration" and "renovation" to preserve history. Sell to someone rule-abiding with deep pockets and a yen to live downtown. It's just not for everyone.

MAVRICKinc7

ANOTHER rendition of the "MONEY PIT" with disposable income some don't have to account for and FEELINGS that can be bought by the highest bidder and trying to recreate what once was, with a perception that has been ignored for the past 50 years and ALLOWED to decay around its own foundations. Isn't 50 years long enough to LIE to ourselves with nothing more to show in return on investment than a gold plated invitation to the next round of meetings being conducted by the Frederick Historical Preservation Commission to share one-ups-manship with others with monied assets and who can best the other in restoration and renovation cost and what amounts to what an old house LOOKS like in the eyes of Historical preservationist?

m21701m

The government should NEVER have anything to say with what someone does with thier own PERSONAL property. If the city wants the wondows preserved, then fine. Buy the windows that were removed and put them in a city museum. There is a reason there is so much blight in downtown frederick and the HPC is the main culprit.

Dwasserba

I agree blight is a side effect of the attempt to preserve brick and mortar history. There are homes here to flip and homes that need conscientious scrutiny. No one is building these. BTW they are called "row homes." And someone who would do it right is out there.

johnqFrederick

And, the windows, even restored, to not meet the mandatory IECC energy requirements our State and Local government/building inspection require

So, do you know the cost to reproduce these wood windows to meet compliance?

17 windows * $600 per window

MAVRICKinc7

Plus an elected government who "goes along, just to get along" and continues to make EXCUSES to the Frederick population about how their hands are tied when it comes to any reasonable solution to take back blighted and slum properties from those that can most afford to play games with tax payer money.

We're not talking about what you can do to renovate your car. We're talking about REAL PROPERTY that has been neglected for more than 50 years.

jgrose79

Build a new home and be forced to use expensive energy saving Windows and insulation. Try to fix up an old blighted property? Well, you will be forced to keep the old leaky single pane Windows and doors. It's a complete joke! I, sick of seeing government act like its imposing common sense guidelines while forcing folks to do some really stupid things at a major cost to the owner. These folks want it all. Less global warming but force people to use inefficient Windows and doors etc. Hysterical Society if you ask me. Not historical!

sevenstones1000

These peole are flippers - they want to do this as cheaply as possible and don't give rat's derrière about preservation. They'd put vinyl siding and sliding windows on it if they could get away with it.

Dwasserba

I don't know about the rat's derriere part but every city has buildings "grandfathered in" after rules change that are sad examples of what the risks are. Undoing a lot of vinyl and restoring what it covers, building windows from scratch, jacking up failing foundations, some people do it and say, why not? Others watch and say, why? Each to his own, but this was an unfortunate sale. Should not happen.

jwhamann

I’m really upset about the way this property has been treated,” said commission member Carrie Albee. Albee called the removal of windows without commission approval, as well as the replacement plans proposed, “totally inappropriate.”

Well, at least someone is working to improve their property, Ms Albee.

Traderarb99

So the HPC won't allow repairs to be made that are required by the city inspectors? That may partially explain all the vacant buildings. Always wonderful to do business with the government.

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