“Synthetic sidings such as vinyl, aluminum and synthetic stucco-like finishes are not historic cladding material in the District and their use should be avoided. I would suggest changing the “should be avoided” to will not be allowed.” -Joe Fehrer, Chair Historic District Review Board on the prohibition of using vinyl siding on historic homes in Cape Charles.
Fehrer made the above statement last month during discussions about an application to use vinyl siding on the historic home at 564 Randolph. At the time, the consensus of the board fell in line with Fehrer’s comments. However, since the applicant was traveling abroad at the time, the board agreed to table the application and allow the applicant to address the board formally before rejecting the claim outright.
At this month’s Regular Meeting of the Historic District Review Board, Chairman Fehrer was not present, so Vice Chairman John Caton was in charge of running the meeting. Even though Fehrer was not present, he sent in written comments noting his continued disapproval of vinyl siding being used in the Historic District when there was a way to repair and retain the original materials.
As far as applications to the HDRB, apparently one month can make all the difference.
With Vice Chairman Caton at the reigns, the applicant of 546 Randolph made her case to the board, showing the type of siding and colors she wanted to use. Board member David Gay once again noted that he has worked on older houses before, and this case seemed more than salvageable. The applicant stated that she understood “where the board was coming from”, yet countered that she was worried about some rot on the structure, and that she didn’t want to have to paint it every few years.
For the moment, it appeared that the decision, affirming Chairman Fehrer’s disdain for vinyl, would be the same as last month–to deny the application. Then, something strange occurred. David Gay, who went to great pains last month, and this one to explain why covering the original structure with vinyl was a bad idea, suddenly decided to abstain from voting on the measure. He also did not offer a reason why such a radical move was required.
According to Robert’s Rules, you should only abstain from voting whenever you have an interest in the outcome that directly affects you personally (or monetarily) in a manner not shared by the other members of your group. As far as we can tell, Mr. Gay offered no such dilemma, so his abstention appeared dubious at best.
The meeting became even more Kafkaesque. With Gay, Fehrer’s Tonto in this vinyl fight now on the sideline, the remainder of the board apparently fashioned themselves as the crew of the HMS Bounty. With their Captain Bligh (Chairman Fehrer) stuffed firmly below decks, they primed themselves for mutiny. Acting Chairman John Caton readily assumed the role of Lieutenant Fletcher Christian by actively entertaining the possibility of allowing vinyl siding. The other board members followed suit, oohing and aahing over the color and texture of the vinyl material presented by the applicant.
Firmly entering the realm of abject Dada or Surrealism, acting vice-chairman Caton, out of nowhere, and seemingly apropos of nothing, made a motion to approve the vinyl siding. Observers, completely caught unawares, were wondering just how this could be happening, when less than 30 days ago, there was a consensus by this very same board that the original, historical siding should be retained, and that vinyl siding, at least in this case, was inappropriate. It wasn’t as if the applicant’s argument was persuasive in any way. To the contrary, she was extremely pleasant about the whole thing, and noted several times that she completely understood why the application should be rejected. Her only real point was that it was an old house, and she didn’t want to incur the time and expense to maintain the original siding.
Even as Gay was abstaining from the vote, his mere presence was enough to create a quorum. The board voted 3 in favor, with one abstention. The Certificate of Appropriateness (whose essence, after this meeting, has undergone a metamorphosis), was approved, with the stipulation that the wood around the windows remain in place.
The intricate, historic façade of 546 Randolph will forever now be covered in plastic.