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The right move

By Staff
Washington City Council’s unanimous vote to prohibit the use of composite-synthetic siding on houses in the city’s Historic District is an excellent decision. It preserves the Historic District and the purpose behind the establishment of the Historic District.
Actually, the vote should not have been needed. The Historic Preservation Commission’s guidelines make it clear that replacing wood siding (or other traditional or historic siding) on a house in the Historic District with composite-synthetic siding is not encouraged.
Over the years, the Historic Preservation Commission has wrestled with the issue of composite-synthetic siding, sometimes known as artificial siding. During those years, the commission has discouraged allowing the use of composite-synthetic siding.
That’s a good policy. Apparently it was not good enough.
In October 2007, the Historic Preservation Commission granted a property owner in the Historic District permission to replace wood siding on a historic structure with composite-synthetic siding. That was a mistake. The commission soon realized that.
The commission, concerned about setting a precedent that would result in other property owners seeking to replace wood siding with composite-synthetic siding asked the council to impose a moratorium on the use of composite-synthetic siding as a replacement for wood siding on homes located in the Historic District.
That was a good move.
In January, the council imposed a 90-day moratorium. Before voting to impose the moratorium, some council members said they understood that replacing wood siding on structures in the Historic District with composite-synthetic siding was discouraged, if not outright prohibited. Bobby Roberson, the city’s director of planning and development, said historic district’s guidelines allow the commission to consider requests to replace wood siding with composite-synthetic siding on a case-by-case basis.
That didn’t sit well with some council members, and it shouldn’t have.
At that January meeting, Mayor Judy Meier Jennette and Councilman Archie Jennings, supported by the remainder of the council, said the city should move quickly to do what’s necessary to prohibit the use of composite-synthetic siding as a replacement for wood siding on homes in the district. That stance was reinforced by the council’s action last week.
The Washington Area Historic Foundation, as it did in January, sent a representative to the council’s meeting last week to voice its opposition to allowing the use of composite-synthetic siding on homes in the Historic District. Dee Congleton, a resident of the Historic District, also voiced her opposition to the use of artificial siding on homes in the district.
They said allowing the use of composite-synthetic siding on homes in the Historic District would damage the value of the district. They’re right.
If there were any doubt on the city’s stance on the artificial siding issue before, that doubt was removed last week by the council. The council was considering a motion to amend the commission’s design guidelines to include guidelines on the use of composite-synthetic siding on homes in the Historic District.
Instead, Councilman Darwin Woolard made the motion, which passed, to not amend the design guidelines to include guidelines on the use of composite-synthetic siding on homes in the Historic District, in effecting banning the use of artificial siding.
The council’s action should settle the matter. It’s a decision in the best interest of the city.