Project, But Sends
Letter To Daniels
BY SARAH R. GREGORY
Members of the Greeneville Historic Zoning Commission have in general been very strongly supportive of the decision by Andrea "Andy" Daniels in December 2012 to purchase the historic Valentine Sevier home at 214 North Main St., and thoroughly renovate it.
Daniels, the wife of Greeneville Mayor W.T. Daniels and a leader in civic and governmental efforts to revitalize the downtown area, said at the time of the purchase that she and her husband plan to make the house their residence.
The brown-brick home, which has two main floors, a full attic and a full, finished basement, is one of the oldest and most historically significant structures in the Historic District.
It was built in 1820-21-- the same time period as the Dickson-Williams Mansion -- by highly-skilled Irish craftsmen hired by Valentine Sevier, a prominent local political, business, and philanthropic leader of that era and the nephew of John Sevier, first governor of Tennessee.
At the time Mrs. Daniels purchased the house late last year, however, it had been for sale for several years, and was in disrepair in a number of ways.
In an interview Friday, she said that, although the house was well-built and basically structurally sound, all of its plumbing, electrical wiring, and gas lines, as well as its heating and cooling systems, had to be re-done to prepare it for residential use again.
In addition, she said, wooden frames around the windows were rotting, were coated in a lead-based paint, and had to be replaced.
A number of the shingles on the shingle roof were also damaged: a situation which led the Daniels to decide to replace the roof.
In addition, at some point a large tree had damaged the rear of the house, resulting in an extended period of time during which two rooms developed bad leaks, creating mold and mildew.
Against this background, the surprise announcement in December 2012 that Mrs. Daniels had bought the historic house and planned to renovate it and move into it was received enthusiastically by both the Historic Zoning Commission members and others in the community interested in the Historic District.
But at the commission's meeting on Oct. 16, the commissioners took the very unusual action of placing on the official record their "disappointment" with one aspect of the way the renovation of the Sevier residence has been conducted.
The commission also voted to ask Chairman Sarah E.T. Webster, to write a letter to Mrs. Daniels on behalf of the commission to state the board's disappointment that windows in the home were replaced without the board's review, although Mrs. Daniels had agreed to facilitate such a review.
The letter from Webster on behalf of the commission was delivered to her last week.
TOUR SCHEDULED TUESDAY
As time permitted since the commission meeting in October, The Greeneville Sun has been researching the Town records concerning the project and interviewing a number of those directly involved, including Webster, Mayor and Mrs. Daniels, and others.
In the interview with the Sun on Friday afternoon, Mrs. Daniels explained the reasons she felt that it was essential to use the proposed more-modern windows in the renovation project.
She also acknowledged that she had not followed through on her agreement to facilitate the commission's review of the windows, and stated that she regretted not having done so.
The overall renovation project is one of two items on the agenda for the Greeneville Historic Zoning Commission on Tuesday.
Following that 10 a.m. meeting, at the invitation of Andy and W.T. Daniels, the commission is scheduled to be given an onsite tour of the renovation work as it stands at this point.
Research showed that the unusual action by the commission in October resulted from what Webster calls a "unique" sequence of events that began in February and March at two regular, normal meetings of the commission.
The members of the Greeneville Historic Zoning Commission are nominated by whoever is the incumbent mayor and approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Commissioners serve on a volunteer basis.
As noted in an accompanying article, the Greeneville Zoning Ordinance places with the Historic Zoning Commission the responsibility of regulating exterior changes to structures in the Greeneville Historic District.
Such exterior changes, including demolitions, require what is known as a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) issued by the commission.
The commission does not, however, regulate any interior renovation, changes, etc., to structures in the Historic Cistrict.
FEB. 5 MEETING
At the commission's regular meeting on Feb. 5, one agenda item was a Jan. 17 application from Mrs. Daniels for the Certificate of Appropriateness required before outside changes to the Valentine Sevier house could move forward.
During that meeting, Mrs. Daniels told the board that she wanted to "keep the house as much like it is as possible," and emphasized that she wanted to maintain the original character of the home.
She said replacement of old windows that contained lead and had rotting wooden fames would be undertaken, and new, heavy-duty guttering would be installed.
She stated that she was adamant about maintaining historic aspects of the home, saying, "I like old stuff. I want it to look old."
Mayor Daniels agreed, saying that renovations undertaken would be "more in tune with a historical look" than at the present.
AGREEMENT ON REVIEW, APPROVAL
Webster, the longtime commission chairman and a Greeneville alderman, said during the February meeting that she thought it was a "wonderful thing" that the Daniels were renovating the home.
"I was very concerned about that piece of property," she stated.
However, Webster recommended that the commission meet regularly for updates about the Valentine Sevier project, so that materials used could be reviewed.
"I think we should look at all sides of that house because it is going to be visible all the way around," Webster said, noting that the home is in a "glowing spot" in the Historic District, near the Walters State Community College campus expansion project.
"I just think as you become definite on what you want to do, we need to look at it," Webster said, speaking to the Daniels.
Minutes of the Feb. 5 meeting state: "Webster believed that as decisions are made by the Daniels' concerning outer changes, they need to be brought before the commission for approval. Andy agreed this will be done through each step."
Following the discussion, on a motion by Commissioner Roger Hankins, the commission approved the application for the Certificate of Appropriateness "as a vote of confidence" in the Daniels, and to make it possible for the work to begin.
Commissioner Melinda Hickerson seconded the motion, which was then unanimously approved by the remaining members of the board who were present: Ben Brooks, Bill Moskowitz, and William G. "Bill" Brown.
As chairman, Webster did not vote, and commissioner Charles Alter was not present.
Later that day, Mrs. Daniels' application for the Certificate of Appropriateness was marked "approved, with conditions" and filed in the Building Department at Greeneville Town Hall.
The condition indicated on the application states: "need updates on each change made."
In the "comments" portion of the application, a Building Department staffer wrote, "Andy [Daniels] will show HZC [Historic Zoning Commission] samples of all materials used in external changes as project moves along."
UPDATE AT MARCH MEETING
Regular meetings of the commission are scheduled every two weeks -- on the first and third Tuesday of each month at Greeneville Town Hall. They are typically canceled if there is no business to discuss.
The next regular meeting of the commission, which would have been held on Feb. 19, was canceled "due to a lack of business."
When the agenda for the March 5 meeting was released, it included an "update" concerning renovations to the Valentine Sevier home.
At that meeting, Mayor and Mrs. Daniels were present, and the commission gave approval to certain steps regarding the historic home's roof and windows.
Commissioners granted approval to a standing-seam metal roof proposed by the Daniels to replace the damaged shingle roof, contingent upon their using a specific dark-green color, wider 24-inch pans, and a particular style of ridge cap.
Discussion then turned to the need to replace windows in the home.
Mrs. Daniels told the board that lead paint on the exterior window frames would be replaced, but that the frames would remain white.
Insulating-type replacement windows she presented at the meeting included thick, one-inch grids to delineate panes. The grids were designed to have the same size and shape as the sashes of older, traditional windows.
She stated that she wanted this type of window, which also includes a tilt-in feature, because they are easier to clean than traditional windows with numerous individual panes, and more energy-efficient than traditional windows.
Buck White, owner of White's Windows and Siding, the company the Daniels hired to carry out the work, attended the March 5 meeting with a sample window for commissioners to see.
"They will look exactly the same [as traditional windows with wooden sashes]," White said.
Commissioners, however, were not satisfied that the proposed substitution was appropriate for the Sevier house.
Hankins, in particular, expressed concern about using vinyl windows in the 190-year-old house -- even though, he said, he has the same windows, installed by White, in his own [non-historic] home.
"I'm very negative about the windows [for this use]," Hankins told Mrs. Daniels, adding, "I would ask you to take a $300 gamble" and purchase and install one window for the commission to review."
White told the board that he had installed identical windows in another home in the Historic District [the Shane and Stephanie Hite residence in the next block] and recommended that commissioners review that house (rather than installing a sample window) as a way to spare expense and labor.
Official minutes of that meeting say, "Webster stated that, to be fair, each request must be viewed in an individual sense, meaning that the window should be considered by viewing it in Andy and W.T.'s home."
The minutes note that W.T. Daniels then spoke briefly, adding "a statement on how much more authentic and historical the vinyl window looks than those currently installed in the home. The home now has storm windows which will be uninstalled, already making the home look more historic, as they were not original."
He also stated that the replacements were the top-of-the-line, highest-rated model in terms of construction quality and energy-efficiency.
'INSTALL ONE FOR REVIEW'
The commission's reservations about the appropriateness of the proposed vinyl windows for the Sevier house appeared to remain, however, and no member was willing to make a motion to approve replacement of all the existing windows.
As discussion concluded, a motion by Hankins that the Daniels be allowed to install one window as an example for the commission to review was seconded by Hickerson.
The motion passed unanimously, with Moskowitz and Brown also voting in favor. Alter and Brooks were not present for the March 5 meeting.
Mrs. Daniels agreed to have one window installed as an example, but said clearly that, once it was in, "I'm not taking it out."
MONTHS WITHOUT DISCUSSION
After the March 5 meeting, updates about renovations at the Valentine Sevier home were neither on the agenda nor discussed again in a public meeting of the Historic Zoning Commission until Oct. 16.
Regular meetings scheduled for March 19, April 2, and April 15 were canceled due to a lack of business.
At a meeting on May 7, a project concerning window replacements at the General Morgan Inn was discussed, but no mention of the Daniels' home was made.
At a May 21 meeting the commission apparently made no mention of the Daniels project either.
Regular commmission meetings on June 4, June 18, July 2, July 16, Aug. 6, Aug. 20, Sept. 3, Sept. 17, and Oct. 1 were all also canceled due to a lack of business.
Webster, as the board's chairman, is responsible for setting the agenda for each meeting of the Historic Zoning Commission.
She said that she bases the agenda on any applications submitted at Town Hall for a Certificate of Appropriateness, and that every meeting's agenda includes a section for "unfinished/old business."
Asked if the Daniels contacted her or other members of the commission about viewing a sample window, Webster said they did not.
"We were never told it was time to view the window," she said, explaining, "Roger [Hankins] specifically asked Andy if she would be willing to do that, and she said yes."
BROUGHT UP OCT. 16
On Oct. 16, the commission spent a few minutes discussing the project; however, the topic had not been on the meeting's official agenda, and neither Mayor Daniels nor Mrs. Daniels was present.
Near the end of the meeting, Hankins brought up the issue as an item of old business, and asked that minutes of the meeting reflect "disappointment" that the Daniels had proceeded with replacement of all windows in the home without the commission's approval.
Hankins said that he felt the commission was, in effect, "being ignored by the chief administrator of the town" -- referring to Mayor Daniels.
He stated that there was "a 50-50 chance" that the windows selected by the Daniels would have been approved by the commission.
He said it was possible that he himself would have been the only commissioner to object -- or that even he might have changed his mind and agreed to approve the proposed replacement windows.
In an interview with The Greeneville Sun in the days following the Oct. 16 meeting, Hankins, a retired architect, indicated that he did not express specific objections to the windows at the meetings where they were discussed, but said he had not been ready to say he was willing to approve them.
"In general," he explained, "I do not believe that an 1820s house deserves to have a vinyl insert between window panes when there are other replacement windows available that have wooden grills on the outside of the windows that would appear to be more appropriate."
Hankins also told the Sun that it was likely the Daniels would have received approval of their preferred windows if they had gone through the process as the commission expected.
He added that there was a possibility that the home's existing windows could have been repaired rather than replaced, after the storm windows were removed. But he noted that the tilt-in feature that Andy Daniels desired would not have been possible under that scenario.
Concerns expressed at the commission's Oct. 16 meeting led to a conversation about what recourse is available to enforce the commissioners' decisions.
Town Building Inspector Jeff Woods was at the meeting, and said that his office can issue stop-work orders on any project in the Historic District if commissioners see work that they believe needs review.
Webster added to Woods' comments, saying commissioners should "be observant" while in the historic zone.
"It's our responsibility also to bring [concerns] to the Building Department," she said.
BUILDING PERMIT QUESTION
During the Oct.16 discussion, Hankins questioned whether work on the exterior of the Daniels' home had begun without a building permit's having been issued.
Woods replied that the Daniels do have a building permit that covers such work.
The commission's approval of a Certificate of Appropriateness in February, it was explained, allowed a building permit for the project to be issued.
Hankins noted that demolition of a circa-1960s garage on the Sevier house site was also carried out without the commission's review or approval.
Woods explained that the Daniels' building permit had been issued at the start of the project and that building permits are "looked at as one total project, not broken into individual pieces" -- such as window installation, roof replacement, garage demolition, etc.
A separate permit to demolish the small garage would not be required, Woods said, noting that demolition permits are required for larger demolition projects -- such as for a house or commercial building.
In late October, Webster wrote the letter to Mrs. Daniels expressing the commission's "disappointment" that there had been no review of the sample replacement window, and delivered it to Andy and W.T. Daniels.
The letter makes it clear that it was written on the commission's behalf, and explains the review process discussed in the Feb. 5 and March 5 meetings.
Concerning the agreement on the process to be followed concerning the windows, the letter states, in part, "Mrs. Daniels would inform the commission upon installation [of one window] so that the commission could look at it from the street before approving or disapproving.
"This did not happen. The windows are now installed. It has been a disappointment and an issue of great concern."
The letter concludes by saying, "Any additional exterior changes to be made, design for deck, etc., need to be brought before the commission."