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June 2, 2012

New Albany man not conceding over siding replacement after all

Bradford Realty owner taking case before mediation panel

NEW ALBANY — Bradford Realty owner Ron Craig said this week that it was not his intention to infer to the New Albany Historic Preservation Commission that he would replace vinyl siding on the Market Street structure to meet building codes.

During a May 16 meeting, the preservation commission again denied a Certificate of Appropriateness, or COA, request by Craig to allow vinyl siding as a replacement to the original wood material on the Bradford Realty building.

The request was retroactive, as the building — located at 419 E. Market St. — was already in the process of having vinyl siding installed in 2008 when Craig was put on notice by the commission.

Since the building is located within a historic district, wood siding is not allowed to be replaced with an artificial material. Craig claimed he wasn’t aware of the rule before proceeding with the project, but the COA was denied four years ago as it was earlier this month.

In between the requests, a court decision also favored the commission. Initially, a judge ruled in favor of Craig citing lack of notification of property owners by the city as to the guidelines governing historic building construction. But that decision was overruled by the Indiana Court of Appeals in March.

After the commission denied the latest COA petition, Craig stated “we’ll make an appearance to comply with whatever you want in terms of outside appearances” to the body.

But Craig told the News and Tribune this week he doesn’t agree with the commission’s decision and isn’t conceding that he will replace the vinyl siding that has already been installed on the 1910 structure.

His latest point of contention is that Don Williams Plumbing and Heating was recently allowed by the commission to use vinyl siding on its building, which is located within a historic district at the intersection of Spring and Ninth streets.

The issue was raised by Craig before the commission earlier this month, and officials said the cases were different. The original siding on the Williams Plumbing building had previously been replaced with aluminum, according to officials.

Thus allowing vinyl siding to be used on the building equated to an artificial to artificial replacement, which is allowed under city guidelines according to the preservation commission.

But Craig maintained this week that he feels the policy is a double standard.

“Vinyl siding is vinyl siding, and if it’s permitted at Ninth and Spring, then it ought to be permitted” for Bradford Realty, he said.

The matter appears to be headed to the city’s preservation mediation panel, which would make it the first case to come before the group since it was formed by the New Albany City Council last year.

Craig said he has submitted a letter to the city requesting a hearing be held on the matter by the mediation panel, which consists of two council members, two preservation commission members and the New Albany building commissioner.

The mediation panel doesn’t have the authority to overturn a court ruling or a decision made by the commission, as it was created to serve as an intermediary between parties to bring resolution to a dispute before legal action has been taken.

But the issue with this case is that court action has already ensued, and the latest ruling isn’t on Craig’s side. Beyond the court case, the issue of the commission’s authority as it pertains to Craig’s building has led to some big debates in recent years.

The mediation panel was formed after then Councilman Steve Price’s attempt to have the commission abolished was defeated in 2010. The Bradford Realty case was one example Price cited when proposing the commission be disbanded.

One reason Price gave for sponsoring the measure — which was defeated 7-1 by the council — was that the preservation regulations were forcing property owners to pay increased costs for repairs and restoration.

Laura Renwick, community preservation specialist with Indiana Landmarks and a member of the preservation commission, said the city hasn’t received a new COA request from Craig.

A fresh COA petition would be required by Craig for any course of action he decides to take in terms of addressing the siding on Bradford Realty.

The commission hasn’t received a date as to when the mediation panel will review the case, Renwick continued.

She said the commission’s viewpoint hasn’t changed in that the body felt design guidelines specifically state that artificial siding isn’t appropriate for use on an historic building.

“We hope that through the mediation process we can arrive at a solution that’s acceptable to both sides and move forward,” Renwick said Wednesday.

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Barbara Brewster has been the organ player at Faith Lutheran Church in Jeffersonville for the past 50 years. Brewster began playing organ with the church in August of 1964 at the age of 17.

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