City council upholds BAR’s decision on historic house painting | Alexandria Times
By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
Correction: The November 23rd article in the Times print, titled “House Painting Appeal Sets Precedents,” states that the City Council mistakenly reversed the decision of the Old & Historic Alexandria Board of Architectural Review and allowed the Reeds to move into their home to keep deleted. In reality, Councilor Paul Smedberg tabled two motions to accept the Reeds appeal, one of which died for lack of a second and one was rejected 5-2, while Councilor Tim Lovain’s motion to reject the appeal and upheld BAR’s decision with 5: 2. The reeds must remove the gray paint from their homes within six months. The Times regrets and apologizes for the mistake.
After a long debate at its public hearing on November 18, the city council upheld the decision of the Old & Historic Alexandria District Board of Architectural Review to require residents to remove gray paint from their historic brick home in the southeast quadrant of Old Town at 402 S. Pitt St.
The city council voted 5-2 to reiterate BAR’s September decision to reject homeowners Amy and Paul Reed’s appeal. Councilor Paul Smedberg and Vice Mayor Justin Wilson cast the votes against.
The homeowners said their motive was to bring the houses together around them and not to desecrate an Alexandrian historic landmark. During the painting, they received a notice from BAR that they had to ask for permission before altering the historic brick. The couple had two options: they could solve the problem administratively by working with staff and removing the paint, or they could request a retrospective certificate of adequacy.
The reeds opted for the latter option and requested retrospective approval from the BAR, which was denied on September 6th. The couple claimed the verdict was unfair and appealed the BAR’s decision to the city council. The council’s 5-2 vote upheld the BAR’s decision and required the paint to be removed within six months.
During the discussion, the council weighed issues of historical preservation, aesthetics, and setting a precedent for future cases.
BAR and the Old Town Civic Association advocated that the council support BAR’s rejection. They said at the time the house was built in 1928, beige brick was more expensive than the old town’s defined red brick. Since light brown bricks were used less frequently in the city and are therefore a rarity in the old town, they said what is left should be kept.
The reeds presented their reasoning along with an apology.
“We’re sorry we painted the brick,” said Amy Reed at the meeting. “We didn’t know we needed a certificate of adequacy.”
The Reeds house is in a row of three row houses on the 400 block of South Pitt Street. The houses next to it, as well as the houses around the corner on Wolfe Street, have all been painted. Paul Reed said they assumed they were on safe ground because the other houses had already been painted.
“We made that assumption and we’re sorry we made that assumption,” he said. “We understand that lack of knowledge and understanding of the law is no excuse, but we wanted you to understand our thinking.”
BAR officials said that in 1992 it was determined that residents must obtain permission before painting unpainted masonry. They said there is a flyer informing homeowners about the requirement of a certificate of adequacy issued by the BAR. They also said most of the other houses were painted before 1992.
Melanie Wieland, a neighbor who lives at 424 Wolfe Street, said she and several other neighbors stood on the side of the reeds and liked the painted house.
Silberberg said she couldn’t see beyond the historicism of the brick.
“From the point of view of monument preservation, monument preservation is a central value here in our city, regardless of whether we feel one way or the other today, and we are very lucky. As I often say, we are all together the temporary stewards of this national treasure called Alexandria, ”she said.
Some councilors were concerned about the precedent that approving a certificate of adequacy could set: If the council allowed the reeds to leave their house as it was, would others test the boundaries? If this were approved, would people use it as an example when asking to change historical architecture in the future?
Smedberg suggested that the council approve the Reeds’ appeal and put forward two motions, one of which died for lack of a second and one was rejected 5-2.
“If this were the first in a series, the precedent problem would probably be stronger, but … I’m having a hard time. It’s the last house and I just don’t see how it harms things if it’s left painted, ”he said. “If this were the first case, if this were the first house to do this in this ‘L’ here, it would be a completely different case and discussion.”
Vice Mayor Justin Wilson supported the call, also citing the city code, which allows the painting of unpainted masonry to be decided on a case-by-case basis. If BAR wanted to keep certain architectures without exception, that would warrant a code change, he said.
“I don’t think it should never be okay to paint unpainted masonry,” he said.
However, the majority of the council disagreed and voted 5-2 on a motion by council member Tim Lovain to reaffirm BAR’s decision requiring the reeds to remove the paint from their home within six months.