By Kathryn G. Menu
“Retain, Repair, Replace” is the mantra used by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation when it comes to materials and features on historic residences and commercial structures, and in historic districts like Sag Harbor Village. After meeting with Julian Adams, the director of that office’s bureau of community preservation services, on Monday the village’s Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board will likely consider adopting a similar mantra, and may consider changing its rules to allow more leniency in specific cases where homeowners or businesses ask to use materials like aluminum clad windows or composite siding.
Mr. Adams attended Monday night’s meeting at the request of the ARB, which has been in the midst of a debate over whether to allow aluminum clad windows or composite siding on houses or businesses in the historic district. Under the Sag Harbor Village code, the ARB is asked not to approve any synthetic materials on projects in the historic district. However, after aluminum clad windows appeared in both the renovation of the former Bulova Watchcase Factory and at a renovation project at 125 Main Street, applicants and community organizations alike questioned whether the board’s policy had changed, and what was truly in the best interest of the historic district.
Enter Mr. Adams.
On Monday, he said materials like historic windows should be retained whenever possible and that proper maintenance is critical. The next option is to repair any damage, and lastly, for those elements of a building that are simply too far gone to repair, replacing materials in-kind is the ideal situation.
However, said Mr. Adams, while that may be the ideal, his office does not mandate replacement in kind, but only “where possible,” opening up the door to the replacement of windows and other features with new materials.
Mr. Adams noted that the quality of wood that is used in construction today is not what it once was and that it often rots easily and demands regular replacement—not financially possible for every homeowner or business. In some cases, Mr. Adams said his office does not frown on the use of composite materials like Fypon, Azek or HardiePlank siding materials, although he added vinyl siding—oil based and as far from a sustainable material as possible—is generally frowned upon by state historic preservation officials.
That being said, Mr. Adams noted when it comes to clapboard homes, synthetic materials are only approved when a full replacement is absolutely necessary or in new construction, and not when the job could be completed with repairs and maintenance.
“The biggest bugaboo we have had in historic preservation for the last 20 years is windows,” said Mr. Adams. “If you have a historic wood window, the best advice is looking at if you can repair it, can you keep it.”
A properly maintained and weathered window, said Mr. Adams, is just as effective as modern sealed windows and will last as long. When it is too late, Mr. Adams said new wood windows need to be of superior quality if they are to last. Most are made of plantation-grown pine, he noted, and have a very short shelf life. Clad aluminum windows, he said, are a suitable replacement, provided they retain the same profile and look of the original window.
After the meeting, ARB Chairman Cee Scott Brown said he would schedule a work session with the board and village attorney Denise Schoen to talk about Mr. Adam’s recommendations, and how the ARB could best implement those ideas. A village code change, and public education, may both be necessary, said Mr. Brown. The ARB will also revisit the application of David Brogna and John Scocco, who have sought clad windows at their Main Street building.
“This will all still be reviewed on a case by case basis, but I think we have to modify our code so this is spelled out for applicants,” said Mr. Brown.