Aubrey and The Win

I guess I should weigh in on the Aubrey Hicks situation, as I have been to many a meeting where the ARB is brought up with contempt.

Congrats to Mr. Hicks and his family, as they now can get on with the business of living in their house leak-free.

I know there are at least 3 other families in the area covered by the ARB awaiting the certificate. And waiting. And waiting.

To anyone who watched, or heard about the City Council meeting the other night (as I watched) - the travesty of the woman from Old SW who installed replacement windows that were 1/10th of an inch too small for the old window frame, which went on for a ludicrous amount of time with no real outcome, only served to highlight the failure of the ARB.

The ARB should be limited in it's powers to approving, and providing guidance to homeowners in the Historic Districts. It should not be empowered to bring charges against the homeowners, nor bully people into making changes they cannot afford. One of the reasons we specifically chose Southeast was that it was NOT under the control of the ARB.

Even though we have a myriad of styles, of home ages, designs - people tend to appreciate what they have, and take pride in the quirks and designs of the homes they own.

That's the key right there though - they own. Renters cannot be expected to care, because in a good majority of cases - the landlord does not care. But that is off point.

Back to Mr. Hicks and the ARB. One of my favorite sections of the story is as follows:

"Architectural Review Board member Don Harwood said the ruling created a "dark day" for the board. It sends a signal to other homeowners that they can do the same thing Hicks did and get by with a slap on the wrist, he said.

He disagreed with the judge's conclusions about why Hicks' certificate was denied, saying the case put the board between a rock and a hard place. Hicks had ample time to come to the board about problems with his roof before he started taking it down, but didn't.

"We have no proof that it was in such bad shape," Harwood said.

The board ruled based on the question of whether the change Hicks was making to the roof would have passed, Harwood said. Had Hicks come to the board, he could have been pointed to possible cheaper alternatives such as repainting the roof, he said. "It's sad that it got to this situation." (rt 08/22/07)

Harwood states they had no proof the roof was in bad shape. Excuse me? You need no proof. It is not up to you to determine the livability of a dwelling you do not own nor live in. It is the homeowner. If my wife decided that she no longer liked the shingle look - and wanted something different - and we had the available money, I see no reason why someone else should tell me that the property I purchased I have no say in. They do not have the right to impose that kind of control.

Now - as to offering suggestions, assistance with choosing materials, or yes - even restricting paint colors (believe me, no one wants to live next to a circus tent) and perhaps speeding up the process by becoming more user friendly - that is the role of an ARB.

Roanoke cannot afford a NYC-styled ARB. We struggle to hold onto the citizens we do have, and yet here we are giving them incentives to leave.

Commercial properties in Historic Districts are quite another issue. They do need to maintain a unified look and style - consistent with the area. Most homeowners are not going to start slapping up awnings, redolent with advertisements on their homes. Commercial properties? It happens frequently.

Perhaps if the ARB went and did some digging, maybe gathered a few historic photos of each house they can, and compare that with the current version of the home - then they might be able to make a case for a 1/10th inch differential being bad, or a shingle roof replacing a tin roof undesirable.

They say that they have no evidence of the roof being bad, show me evidence of it being good.

Oh - and repainting a roof (unless done with tar, or a rubber sealant) will not stop leaks or cracks from developing in a durable, but breakable metal roof. The only roof that has a 1000 year promise is copper. Once the patina sets on it, it is nearly indestructible. Tin has a maximum life of 125 years before replacement becomes the only option.

But you folks go on and paint your roof like the ARB says. That should work well.

Anyway - once again. Southeast is older, more historic, and has no ARB to answer to. All we ask is that you keep the circus tent to a minimum.


Stephen said...

Well said. This just shows even more the ineptitude of the Roanoke City Council and subsequent branches of their little clique.

Andrew said...

I agree with you -- I hate ARBs, homeowners associations, and the like. People in power tend to want to use that power not to enforce the law or the public good, but their own ideas of what's right.

But to be a Devil's advocate, when the Hickses bought the house, weren't they aware of the constraints it was under? If they went into it knowing the kind of control the ARB had, how can they then complain later?

As you said, you (and I) bought a home in an area not under the ARB's control. Why didn't the Hickses do the same?

Samuel said...

i live in the countries largest nationally registared historic district. Known as the "Near Westside Neighborhood" We are designated as having the largest concentration of Victorian homes and architecture. A point I often use is the one already mentioned. If you buy in a historic district you follow the rules. If you have lived and owned in a historic district, befor designated a historic district, some restrictions should be eased and help with. Check us out at www.historicnearwestside.com Advice is free. Lots of times SEEN IT DONE IT.

Bill White said...

Wow, are you dumb -- its okay to have rules as long as they apply to thing you would never want to do.

The Architectural Review Board can be silly, but compelling homeowners to install galvanized steel roofing (which is almost certainly what Mr Hicks had -- not "tin", as tin is very unusual in Roanoke's historic district, except as shingles) is not a silly thing. Objectively, galvanized steel is a much better roofing material (it has four times the life of the best shingles and ten times the life of the worst). Further, it contributes to the historic look of properties.

Requiring stupid things -- like a 1/10th inch gap in a window to be rectified by changing the window (instead of being repaired by caulk) -- is an abuse of the ARB's powers.

What they should do is find a contractor with experience in historic residential renovation and have them make recommendations to the board as to what is sensible.

I was disappointed to hear that they didn't slam this guy for making a clearly illegal change in the roofing to his property. I wonder if he didn't pull a certain judge who I won't name but who is known for ruling in a completely erratic fashion -- largely because he is still growing into his role on the bench.

Jason said...

thought i'd plug this:


there's a workshop about permits...

please feel free to register for the Old Home Renovation Fair on Oct 20th.

Lauren said...

We are leaving OSW. One reason? The ARB or rather, the fact every repair you make is scrutinized. Its a shame too - with the current situation, folks that do NO repairs are rewarded, while those that try to make their homes and neighborhood lovely to look at, end up in Court.