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Historic-home owner wins vinyl battle

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com · 340-2437

After a court battle with the city of Decatur and its Historic Preservation Commission, a homeowner will get to install vinyl windows in his Old Decatur home.

Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson ruled that Andy Scharein may install 28 windows in his home without interference from the commission.

The judge’s ruling is in response to litigation Scharein brought against the city in 2006 for upholding its historic commission’s denial of him replacing rotted wooden windows with vinyl.

Thompson heard arguments from Scharein’s attorney and the city’s attorney at a hearing April 9.

Historic properties are subject to rules and regulations of the historic commission and the city code.

Before certain renovations or repairs, an owner must obtain a certificate of appropriateness from the commission.

Scharein applied for a certificate to replace 28 windows at his home on Line Street Northeast on April 6, 2006. He wanted to install vinyl windows that he said resemble the old wooden windows.

The commission said no. He appealed the decision to the City Council, which said no, also.

He then appealed to Morgan County Circuit Court.

There, he got victory this week, and he plans to install his vinyl windows.

“I’ve called my windows guy, and he had to pull my file because the quotes are a year and a half old,” Scharein said.

He said he chose high quality windows that resemble wood.

Cost

The quote he had before was $20,000. The Historic Commission wanted him to buy wood windows with a price tag of $45,000.

Thompson’s court order prohibits city officials and the commission from stopping the installation. If the city appeals the ruling, that will stop Scharein from installing the windows until further court action.

City Attorney Herman Marks said he doesn’t know whether the city will appeal the judge’s decision.

Thompson states in the ruling that, because of the commission’s inaction on an application Scharein made May 1, operation of law gave him approval June 15.

“This approval rendered any subsequent action by the City Council and the commission without force or consequence,” the ruling states.

“It is therefore ordered that plaintiff’s complaint for relief as to these declarations is granted.”

Delay in action

The judge said the commission failed to take action on the application within 45 days, in accordance with the city ordinance.

“The only action taken within 45 days of the filing of this application was its denial at the commission’s meeting on May 25, 2006,” the ruling states.

The judge also said that fewer than half of a commission quorum made the May 25 decision. Only three of eight members attended the meeting.

“As such, this purported denial of plaintiff’s May 1 application was null and void, and therefore had no force or effect,” Thompson said in the ruling.

The judge set a hearing for Feb. 26 on Scharein’s claim seeking monetary damages.

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