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Vinyl windows cause controversy
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The debate on the use of vinyl windows in McMinnville’s downtown historic district could be coming to an end. One property owner has drawn a line in the dirt.
Local attorney Larry Ross requested permission from the city’s Historic Zoning Commission to place vinyl windows on the second floor of his property at 110-112 E. Main Street. The request was made after the windows were already installed.
The commission met in August to consider the request and the decision was made to table the discussion until September to allow Planning and Zoning manager Josh Baker time to discuss the situation with Ross.
“To be blunt,” said Baker, “he doesn’t want to take the windows out.”
In August, commission members voiced a desire for Ross to remove an old awning in front of the property that overhangs a planter. Baker says Ross is not willing to remove the awning at his expense.
“He was open to removal of the awning, at no cost to him, if the city wanted to remove it,” said Baker. “Our discussion was we are not happy with the windows, but if we could get rid of the awning, that might be a middle ground and we could live with the windows.”
When it comes to windows, historic zoning guidelines do not prohibit the use of vinyl windows. The guidelines do encourage property owners to restore the historic windows and “modern materials may be used but should be in the same style, mass and color as the original.”
Numerous buildings in the historic district have vinyl windows.
“The problem is we have allowed vinyl windows,” said Baker. “I guess we have to decide if we are going to strictly forbid them. He could, potentially, come back on us for not enforcing the rules consistently.”
The commission has had problems in the past with property owners who would rather ask forgiveness than risk having their request denied. Historic Zoning Commission member Ben Newman says he does not like that.
“The way it was done here is that he just went ahead and did it,” said Newman. “He just put the windows in and came and asked for forgiveness. He didn’t ask beforehand. He knew he should have come to us first.”
HZC member Bobby Kirby does not want to deter future renovation.
“If he is trying to make improvements on a building downtown, we have a lot that are falling down,” said Kirby. “We have city buildings that are falling down. I think it’s good he is doing some things to upgrade the building, trying to enhance it, trying to bring people downtown and trying to bring businesses downtown. I want to assist people with those improvements, not hinder them.”
Baker says the commission has to make a decision on whether to cross the line Ross has drawn regarding vinyl windows.
“This would be the time to say we are going to allow them or we aren’t going to allow them,” said Baker. “I spoke to the state about this. They advised if you let this go, don’t try to go back on it. This is it. If you let them stay, you are saying they are OK.”
HZC member Tom Ward suggested changing the guidelines to preserve the historic windows on the first floor, while allowing vinyl windows on other floors.
“I can’t think of any windows on the first floor that are vinyl windows,” said Baker. “That is an option.”
The measure was tabled until October. Baker will continue his discussion with Ross regarding the awning removal.