Crowd protests Sykesville's preservation rules Property owners say historic commission must loosen up on renovations

September 10, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Sykesville residents and business owners crowded the Town House on Monday to protest restoration policies of the Historic District Commission.

A standing-room-only crowd of about 80 people filled the council chambers, adjoining offices and the foyer. Nearly the same number of residents voted in the town's spring election.

"We are all concerned about the direction the town is taking, particularly the lack of progress on improving the appearance of Main Street," said Bruce Greenberg, owner of several properties in the town's business district.

Greenberg has collected 150 signatures on a petition asking the commission to relax its rules on historic preservation. Modification of town ordinances will lead to "rapid improvements in street facades," Greenberg told the council.

Restoration of building exteriors is integral to the town's extensive Main Street revitalization plan, a project officials hope to begin soon.

The seven-member historic commission has rejected many owners' plans to renovate their buildings with vinyl, a less-costly alternative to wood but a component strict preservationists oppose. Those buildings remain eyesores with deteriorating facades.

"I would like to move ahead quickly with the revitalization, and it's important to have businesses working with us," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman. "We're looking for a planning tool that will make our downtown more vital and vibrant."

Greenberg attributed the renovation stalemate to a rigid commission. Businesses and homeowners said they cannot afford the costlier renovations the commission is demanding.

"The consensus is we should preserve the 19th-century facades, but few of us believe that it has to be with the original wood," Greenberg said.

Fred Gossage, owner of Consolidated Stationers on Main Street, said the wood siding on his building has deteriorated so much he can see through the walls. He said he will either paint again -- which will last about three years -- or cover the building with vinyl siding.

He showed the council vinyl samples that had the grainy appearance of wood.

"You have this many people here tonight with a common thread: We want a better Sykesville, but give us leeway," Gossage said.

Jackie Sellers, a real estate agent who lives in town, said buyers often look for maintenance-free homes. She predicted future problems selling properties with high maintenance costs.

"How lucky this town is to have so many people willing to put money into and work on their properties," Sellers said. "Don't shut the door on them. Show them you want them to stay here."

Herman said he has discussed the issue at length with the historic commission. He commended the crowd for its "impressive showing of support."

"Dedicated businesses and homeowners help the town grow and prosper," said the mayor, who promised to do his best to rectify the situation.

Commission members did not attend the council session, but the public is invited to its monthly meeting on Sept. 30.

"I hope we have an equally impressive showing," Herman said.

Pub Date: 9/10/97

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