BY SARAH R. GREGORY
The Greeneville Sun spoke with Sarah
E.T. Webster, chairman of the Greeneville Historical Zoning Commission, a few days after the Oct. 16
meeting at which the commission asked Webster, as chairman, to write a letter to Andrea "Andy"
Daniels expressing "disappointment" concerning the procedure she followed in replacing windows at
the historic Valentine Sevier House on North Main Street.
Webster, a Greeneville alderman and the longtime chairman of the board, explained in the interview that, in carrrying out the commission's responsibility under the Town Zoning Ordinance, it was important for the members to consider each piece of property in the Historic District as an individual situation.
"You're supposed to look at it from the standpoint of what is best for that piece of property," she said. "It's 'What is appropriate to that particular style, that particular time, that style of house."
Webster was asked whether she had seen the windows installed in the Valentine Sevier home and, if so, what her opinion of them was.
She replied, "I think in this particular situation that people on the street or driving by -- because of where the house sits on the lot [set back a considerable distance from North Main Street] -- would not pick up that it's the material that it is."
"And I have to say, what is there [now] looks better than the storm windows that were there [before the renovation project began]," she stated. adding ,"It's a cleaned-up look for the house."
Webster said she felt that the removal of the storm windows make the house look "much neater and better," and noted that "no architectural details have been altered."
SUPPORT FOR PROJECT
When asked if she felt the Historic Zoning Commission remained supportive of the renovation of the Valentine Sevier home by Andy Daniels and her husband, Mayor W.T. Daniels, Webster did not hesistate. "I think definitely there is a lot of support," she said.
She continued, "When Andy bought that house -- I really feel it was about the last minute. [Without that action] I don't think we would have it available to keep in our historical architectural community."
She said the Daniels are saving the historic structure.
"That's most definite. They're saving the house," she said.
Webster also emphasized that the home is exactly that -- a home, and a private residence.
"This is a private home," she said. "This is not public property."
About two weeks ago, after the meeting at Greeneville Town Hall in which the Historic Zoning Commission voted to send a letter to the Daniels but before the letter had been written and sent, Mayor Daniels was interviewed about the action.
The said that he was in Town Hall at the time of the Oct. 16 commission meeting, and would have come into the board room to answer questions if asked.
"We are working to restore the house to its original look when it was built in 1820," he said.
He said the possibility of using wooden windows for the project was considered, but, in addition to his wife's concerns about numerous individual window panes to clean, the wooden windows were three-to-four times the expense of the replacements selected.
"The house is set back from the road on private property," he said. "If you're standing on the street, you cannot tell the difference."
MORE HARM THAN GOOD?
Daniels told the Sun that he was afraid that the controversy surrounding the issue would, in the end, do more harm to the public's perception of the Historic Zoning Commission than good for the Historic District.
"There are a lot of people out there that are fed up with these types of regulations and nit-picking from the government," he said.
"Nobody is going to want to buy a building in the historic zone and fix it up when they have to go through so many regulations."
Mayor Daniels said he believes that the Historic Zoning Commission is an important part of maintaining the downtown area's historical character.
The commission was created by a Town ordinance; members are nominated by incumbent mayors and elected by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen
"I do realize that we have to protect the historical integrity of the district, and I agree with that," he said, "but you have to be reasonable.
"It'd be different if we were painting the house pink. But it's going back to its original state even more so than it was in when we found it."
ANDY DANIELS RESPONDS
In a separate interview with the Sun on Friday, after the letter from Webster was received, Andy Daniels was straightforward and direct about the fact that modern (though rather old-looking) replacement windows with vinyl grids had been installed throughout the house without the commission's being given a chance to review one window first, as had been agreed upon.
She stated that she was responsible for not following the procedure she had agreed to concerning the windows, and added that she regrets her decision.
She gave the Sun a thorough tour of both the exterior and the interior of the home, explained her reasons for selecting the windows she did, and answered questions about the procedure she had followed.
She said simply that she was not willing to accept the wooden windows that had been suggested by some members of the commission as an alternative to the vinyl replacement windows.
"I would never accept those [traditional] windows," she said. "And I should've gone to them [the commission]. I know that," she said.
"I would never not do those windows. I don't care what they told me because I've lived with those old, wooden windows.
"These windows are 100 percent better, and the others [the storm windows] had old metal stuff. They were awful, and they were ugly," she said.
"I told Roger [commission member Roger Hankins], I said, 'I'm too old to clean windows.' My old house had that. I replaced them, and I'd never go back. And I know I didn't do what I was supposed to," she said.
"I really like to keep a clean house. I love clean windows. And I was just not going to do that [clean dozens of individual window panes in wooden windows]. I'm sorry," she said. "I know I didn't follow procedure."
Daniels said the controversy could have been avoided if the commission had been allowed to review a single window as had been planned.
"I could have avoided this. I could have done that [followed procedure]," she said. "It was my mistake.
"If I would do it again, I would let them come look at it -- but I would not keep those [old] windows, I know. And that's my mistake.
"I should've said, 'Come and please look at one,'" she said. "That's what I should've done. It's what I said I'd do, and I didn't do it."
Asked if any members of the commission had contacted her about reviewing a sample window in the seven months since the procedure was agreed to in March, Mrs. Daniels said no.
She stated that a lot of money has been spent trying to keep the house in as original a condition as possible.
"We have spent [much money] making these windows look original. The outside is perfectly like it was, with the cypress wood [frames]. The inside is perfect," she said.
Daniels explained that, in order to duplicate the appearance of the original windows, the sizes of the replacement windows throughout the house vary, as do their grid patterns.
To exactly duplicate the original windows, some of the replacement windows have 12 panes over 12 panes, others have 12 over 9, or 9 over 9, or other patterns.
She said that Buck White, owner of White's Windows and Siding, who provided and installed the replacement windows, was painstaking -- without even being instructed to do so -- in ensuring that the grid patterns of the original windows were preserved exactly in the replacements.
As the interview concluded, Andy Daniels emphasized that the decisions about the windows were hers alone, and that blame should not be placed on her husband, Mayor Daniels.
"I know I didn't set a good example," she said. "And don't blame W.T. He can't control me either -- I had it [the house] bought before he even knew that I bid on it," she joked.
The decisions, she said, "were totally mine. Mine. I consider [his input] sometimes because I want him to feel a part of it, but, the windows were mine," she said.
"Don't blame him for anything. It's me. It's just the way I am. I should've done the procedure. I won't do that [deviate from the process] any more," she said.
She said that she does not feel that she is "above" the review process followed by the Historic Zoning Commission.
"I do not feel like that [above the process]. I just know what I want. I wanted those windows more than anything else as far as the house is concerned," she said.
She added that she hopes to get back on the right foot with the commission.
"I want the whole group to come over and to really know that I love the old look. I don't want to change it."
"I'm going to show them how much I want the house to stay original," she said.