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Hancock

Historic Commission overruled; doors OK’d

Metal garage doors installed without commission approval this fall will be allowed, following ZBA vote

Metal garage doors installed by Tracy Stevens at the barn on her Main Street property failed to meet with approval by the Historic District Commission, prompting an appeal to the town's Zoning Board of Adjustment

Metal garage doors installed by Tracy Stevens at the barn on her Main Street property failed to meet with approval by the Historic District Commission, prompting an appeal to the town's Zoning Board of Adjustment

HANCOCK — Tracy and Mark Stevens will be allowed to keep the three metal garage doors on the barn of their home on Main Street.

Last week, the Zoning Board of Adjustment overruled the town’s Historic District Commission, which had ruled in August that the doors didn’t meet Historic District standards. That Historic District Commission ruling cited the regulation that when replacement of an architectural feature of a home in the district is necessary, the new material “should match the matter being replaced in composition, design and other visual qualities.” Board members said the metal doors, which had already been installed prior to the Stevenses application, were inappropriate.

The couple appealed that ruling to the Zoning Board, which met in late October and heard Tracy Stevens and her lawyer, Silas Little of Peterborough, say the doors Stevens replaced had no historic value. At that meeting, the ZBA referred the matter back to the Historic District Commission, to see if a compromise could be reached before the ZBA ruled on the appeal.

On Nov. 27, when the Historic District Commission members met again with Little and the Stevenses, Little proposed that the black hinges on the doors could be removed, so the doors would look similar to those they had replaced. A suggestion to treat the doors in order to reduce glare from the metal was also discussed. But the commission members ultimately decided not to recommend any proposed changes.

“I don’t see these suggestions as bringing us to a compromise,” said Historic District Commission Chair Dave Drasba. “I really think this should go back to the ZBA.”

So the following night, Nov. 28, the ZBA resumed its hearing on the appeal.

Little told the board that their are no specific criteria that apply to the town’s Historic District.

“The Historic District never adopted any regulations,” he said. “It’s all subject to the personal opinions of the members.”

He reviewed the proposal to remove the black hinges and handles on the doors and said the Stevenses would be willing to put a flat enamel paint on the doors to reduce glare.

Drasba said those issues were actually minor concerns and that if the Zoning Board were to overrule the commission’s decision, he didn’t think the changes would be necessary. But he insisted that the key issue was that the doors were not a “replacement in kind” and therefore violated Historic District Standards.

During deliberations, ZBA member Jon Grosjean passed out photos of other garage doors in the Historic District that had hardware similar to that on the Stevens’s doors. ZBA member Linda Renna noted that the doors are well away from the road and Ken Chester said the doors that were replaced were not architecturally significant.

ZBA Chair Alison Rossiter said people have an obligation to get approval from the Historic District Commission before making significant changes to the exterior of their property.

In an earlier case, Rossiter said, an applicant had been required to replace a metal door with wood.

Board members said it is unfortunate that the town ordinances provide no penalty for failure to go before the Historic District Commission. But they voted, 4-1, with Hunt Dowse casting the only dissenting vote, to grant the appeal.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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