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Historic District panel unchanged

February 03, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday shot down a proposal that would have weakened the city's Historic District Commission.

The commission was formed in 1987 by then-Mayor Steven Sager and the City Council to review applications from developers who want to change the exterior appearance of historic buildings.

During a Tuesday work session, the council heard a proposal that would have changed the way the commission's decisions are appealed.

Appeals currently are heard in Washington County Circuit Court. The proposal would have shifted the appeal process to the Hagerstown Board of Zoning Appeals.

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Councilmen Martin E. Brubaker and Lewis C. Metzner said they believed the process works fine the way it is.

"I haven't heard of anything that's broken that needs to be fixed," Metzner said.

He suggested the only reason the issue was being discussed was because of 10 windows replaced in the former Walker House at 34-36 S. Potomac St.

About five years ago, developer Don Bowman used aluminum-clad, energy-efficient windows to replace the old ones in the facade of the building. Because the replacement windows weren't made with wood like the originals, the commission said they failed to maintain the historic integrity of the building and had to be replaced.

Bowman said he thought the commission approved the windows, which cost about $44,000, and, in December, threatened to sue the city if the issue wasn't resolved in his favor.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh, who claimed all along that Bowman was receiving preferential treatment by having his complaint come this far, also said she supported keeping the appeals process in place.

"Why should we mess with it?" she said.

Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer said she didn't see a problem letting the Board of Zoning Appeals hear appeals.

After Cromer spoke, Brubaker said the Board of Zoning Appeals is busy enough and would have to be retrained to hear appeals of the commission's decision.

A majority of the council then agreed to retain the existing system.

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