Restoration Dream Turns to Preservation Pain

house windowsFor two owners of historic homes trying to replace leaky windows, it’s back to square one.

Corvallis City Council, in a 6-3 vote, rejected two appeals Feb. 17 and upheld a previous decision of the Historic Resources Commission regarding the William Lane House and the Farra House. Those two decisions meant homeowners couldn’t replace damaged wood windows with fiberglass-clad wood windows.

For Lane House owner Jennifer Nash, who aims to move her law offices there with fellow lawyer Nicolas Ortiz, it was the culmination of a frustrating process. She will go ahead and install the three fiberglass-clad wood inserts that the Historic Resources Commission did approve. But three additional windows got the thumbs-down because they face the street. The wood is still rotting.

“The alternative is to replace all of the windows that need repair with wood windows,” Nash said. “But if we did that, it would require us in the removal process to severely damage the original interior and exterior molding, which is impossible to repair and replace because it’s 5½ inches all the way around of hand-carpentered old-growth fir.”

Council members said they might have decided differently if they’d sat on the Historic Resources Commission.

“I am convinced that fiberglass-clad wood windows are no different than wood windows,” council member Mike Beilstein said. “The difference in appearance is not that different. To me it’s a matter of a sum of a building being more important than its components.”

But Beilstein said he didn’t want to reverse a decision made by a commission of citizens appointed by the council. That’s even though the council’s decision was supposed to be a de novo review, which essentially means councilors cannot reference previous conclusions to make that call.

“It would be as if we were saying their decision was wrong, and I don’t think they misinterpreted the code in any way,” Beilstein said.

By Denise Ruttan