Modular house meets

Published 6:51 am Tuesday, October 28, 2008

By Staff
Historic District rules
Officials: Exterior of structure will fit in with neighborhood
Staff Writer
In most other parts of Washington, it would be an unexceptional new home built on the vacant lot where an older house burned down.
The walls of the house’s first story are made with cinder block, and the rest of the building is made of prefabricated sections. The difference is this soon-to-be home in Washington’s Historic District is surrounded by well-kept houses from centuries past.
The house is taking some heat from critics who say it’s not historic enough, but city officials said it will fit in, once construction is completed.
Critics have talked with neighbors and have made several calls to the Washington Daily News’ anonymous Sound Off feature.
Another criticized the process that allowed the house to be built in the Historic District.
One caller expressed “concern” about the building.
The short answer: The Historic Preservation Commission approved the plans.
The commission was only interested in making sure the exterior of the house fit in with the neighborhood. Building methods are governed by the state’s building code, and the interior’s appearance is left up to the owner.
And even then, some choices are out of the commission’s purview.
Rodman said the home’s builder, Paul Milo Arnold, began by submitting a proposal for the site.
That proposal, which featured a prominent garage and limited windows on the first floor, was rejected by the commission as out of sync with the neighborhood, Rodman said.
But Arnold, a former commission member, listened to the commission’s suggestions and came back with a second design that features first- and second- story porches, Rodman said.
After some additional changes to the plans, the commission granted a certificate of appropriateness, Rodman said.
The finished house should have a stuccoed-over foundation, hardi-plank siding (a durable, synthetic wood look-alike that’s been used other places in the Historic District) and discrete exterior stairs to the second level, according to plans submitted to the city.
Roberson said the case is unusual because there isn’t much room for new construction in the Historic District, which means new houses often would require the demolition of an existing house. He said that in itself requires a lengthy review process.
Roberson said, “Thus far, we’ve had very few.”