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November 10, 2012

Deal proposed in preservation case regarding vinyl siding on New Albany building

Owner would pay $1,550 fine, be allowed to finish project

NEW ALBANY — Ron Craig has been offered a settlement in his case with the New Albany Historic Preservation Commission over the vinyl siding he improperly installed on a house at 419 E. Market St. almost four years ago.

Craig has had two Certificate of Appropriateness requests to permit the siding denied by the commission, the latest of which came in May after the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned a ruling allowing the vinyl to stay intact.

The circa 1910 house — which doubles as the home of Bradford Realty — sits in an historic district. Craig was to follow commission’s guidelines when refurbishing the structure, such as using original wood instead of vinyl siding.

But without much precedent to pursue penalties against Craig, or a clear path as to how to force him to remove the siding, the city and commission have been in negotiations with the property owner as how to remedy the situation.

Craig has been offered a deal in which he would pay a $1,550 fine, which is based on a $10 penalty for each day the siding remained in place after the May denial of the Certificate of Appropriateness request by the commission. By paying the fine, he would be allowed to install J-Channel panel to ensure the vinyl siding is water- and weather-tight.

Scott Wood, director of the New Albany Plan Commission and the administration’s liaison on the commission, said the body also would likely consider a counter offer if Craig decided to remove the vinyl siding and restore the building to match city codes.

“The preservation commission acknowledged that the vinyl siding installation left some things to be desired as far as preserving the building going forward,” said Wood, who is a nonvoting member of the commission.

The commission didn’t vote to accept the settlement during its October meeting, as Craig requested the matter be tabled until December.  Multiple attempts to reach Craig over the past week for comment were unsuccessful as of press time.

Craig has maintained he wasn’t aware the house was in an historic preservation district when he started the siding replacement in 2008. Since the case first came to light, the commission and city have distributed letters to homeowners in the preservation districts alerting them of the guidelines.  

New Albany Building Commissioner David Brewer referred inquiries on the specifics of the proposal to Indiana Landmarks. He said he has faith the commission will make an informed and proper decision on the matter.

“We work very hard to uphold the ordinances in the city,” he said.

But there’s no clear answer in the court ruling as to how the city would go about forcing Craig to remove the vinyl siding even if the commission rejected the proposed settlement.

Laura Renwick, community preservation specialist with Indiana Landmarks and a nonvoting member of the HPC, said the settlement proposal was the result of discussions between the administration and the commission. She declined to comment on the proposal until after the commission votes on the settlement during its December meeting.

The Craig case has drawn attention from several layers of government including the New Albany City Council. Council President Diane McCartin-Benedetti and Vice President Kevin Zurschmiede were a part of a commission mediation panel convened for the first time to try and reach a solution with Craig after the court ruling was released.

Benedetti said during the mediation proceedings earlier this year that it’s an important case because it has received a great deal of attention from the community and may set a precedent as to how the commission will handle such violations.

The commission doesn’t deny many Certificate of Appropriateness requests, nor has it fined many property owners since its inception.

Zurschmiede said Friday he hasn’t spoken with Craig about the settlement proposal.

“I hope it’s something that Mr. Craig can live with and can get it resolved and put it behind him and move forward,” he said.

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