Historic Review Board Denies Chimney Removal

New Historic District Review Board denied a request to remove the non-working chimney at 621 Jefferson Avenue. (Wave photo)

New Historic District Review Board denied a request to remove the non-working chimney at 621 Jefferson Avenue. (Wave photo)

Cape Charles Wave

May 30, 2013

The new Cape Charles Historic District Review Board met May 21, and quickly got to work on a request by the new owners to modify a house at 621 Jefferson Avenue.

Town Planner Tom Bonadeo (who retired May 28) described 621 Jefferson as “located in an area of town where the homes are in the most need of repair. At least two nearby homes have been abandoned for 6-10 years,” he said. He further noted that 621 Jefferson had been empty and for sale for two years.

The new owners, Matthew Hardison and Trafton Jordan, requested permission to extend a dormer; return the porch to its original open style; remove a non-functioning chimney; replace existing vinyl siding; and replace a rear window with a sliding door.

Bonadeo recommended approval of all requests, but the new Board was hesitant. They preferred French doors over a sliding door, but acknowledged that there was not sufficient space. Since the sliding door would include muttons resembling a French door, they approved that design.

The Board also was troubled over removal of the chimney. Even though Bonadeo judged it “badly deteriorated if not unusable,” the Board worried that a house without a chimney was not in keeping with the historic nature of the neighborhood.

The Board voted to deny permission to remove the chimney. The owners may need to repair it to prevent it from falling down, but they were not required to make it usable.


The Board elected David Gay chairman and Joe Febrer vice chairman. Other members are John Caton, Ted Warner, and Terry Strub.

All are new members with the exception of Strub, who was a recent appointee to the previous Board.

Bonadeo has engaged a consultant to train the new Board in the principles of historic preservation.

The consultant, Paige Pollard, of the Commonwealth Preservation Group, also is employed by J. David McCormack, a developer who has applied to convert the Old School in the Park into a 17-unit apartment building.

Pollard prepared the applications for historic tax credits for McCormack and submitted them to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, where she formerly was a staff member.

The Historic District Review Board, which received a tutorial from Pollard at the meeting, will at some point be asked to decide whether plans to convert the Old School meet the standards of the Historic District.

Unless and until the Board issues a Certificate of Appropriateness, the developer does not have permission to begin construction.

The earlier Board on July 17, 2012, approved by unanimous vote a motion that “the Historic District Review Board did not feel that conversion of the Old School building to apartments was an appropriate use.”

That Board subsequently resigned (with the exception of Strub) after being overruled by Town Council on their decision to require modifications to the glass balconies on the new Hotel Cape Charles.

During her remarks to the Board, Pollard noted that the Town Review Board is authorized under Virginia law to make decisions about historic preservation in the Cape Charles Historic District.

Pollard emphasized that the Board needs to realize that it is dealing with neighbors and friends. In local communities, boards can be a bit more lenient when deciding whether the changes that have already been made to a historic structure may be continued and how to deal with restorations, she said.

The goal is to promote preservation and retention of buildings. Rules should be applied uniformly. “You need to consider what is for the greater good of the community. Pick your battles,” Pollard said.




13 Responses to “Historic Review Board Denies Chimney Removal”

  1. Geneva Smith on May 30th, 2013 7:10 am

    I think I would contact the Va. Dept. of Historic Resources or the Committee of
    Architectural Review (in Richmond since the 1950’s) for guidance. Not sure
    I’d look to someone connected with the old school development problems for

  2. Ann Snyder on May 30th, 2013 8:26 am

    This response to a property owner’s request to remove an unstable and non-functional chimney troubles me a little. Refusal to adapt to changing times and needs often marks the demise of an entity (whether a living creature, a community, or even a house). The property owners’ requests would have made for a sounder roof and a very pleasant access at the back, appropriate for the modest style of this house. Is this home truly so historically significant that the community of Cape Charles has a stake in preserving its look during a particular time, at the expense of the desires of the property owners?

  3. Daniel Burke on May 30th, 2013 10:09 am

    Dear HRB,
    Get off your duffs and go take a look at what you’ve done. There are several houses right across the street that a stiff wind could knock down, half of the older houses don’t have chimneys, one has a stainless steel pipe through the roof, and two other houses have been recently remodeled with no chimneys. These people are investing in our town. We desperately need people like this and you are concerned about a broken-down chimney. You made a little mistake. You can fix this for these nice folks. Be big about this. Let them take the chimney down before it falls down. Thanks

  4. Mollie Pickron on May 30th, 2013 11:48 am

    I agree with Dan. A broken down chimney does not have any historical significance in fact, if the homeowners decide to do nothing about the chimney, it will remain to be a danger to the homeowners and passers-by. We took our chimney down years ago and no one has ever noticed! Let’s be reasonable, folks.

  5. Randy Gibson on May 30th, 2013 12:42 pm

    I agree with everyone. Requiring the chimney is stupid.

  6. Mike Kuzma, Jr on May 30th, 2013 1:46 pm

    This has nothing to do with chimneys and everything to do with our obeisance to Government.

  7. David Gay on May 30th, 2013 2:18 pm

    As the new Chairman of the Historic Review Board I welcome all your comments whether you agree or disagree with the decision of the board. I think it is a good thing when members of the community take an interest in our town government. Please be aware that the Historic Review Board’s mission is to preserve the look and feel of Old Cape Charles. Keep in mind that almost all of the changes to the structure were approved by the board with the exception of the removal of the chimney and the inclusion of a sliding glass door. There was discussion among the members of the board with regard to the chimney and several options were suggested: 1) Repair the existing chimney; 2) Replace the chimney with a false one that looks like the old one; 3) approve the removal of the chimney. The owners submitted pictures of the surrounding structures with similar chimneys. After much discussion the board decided that we would not approve the removal of the chimney as it would change the look of the street. The owners are welcome to appeal the decision to the board at our next meeting. In the meantime, they have the approval to start their project and do most of the work they requested.

  8. Daniel Burke on May 30th, 2013 4:38 pm

    The look and feel of that area is abandoned housing and falling down housing. That’s what is being preserved. They can do all the work that the HRB so graciously “allowed” and then their chimney can fall down on it. Investors beware!

  9. Deborah Bender on May 31st, 2013 7:45 am

    So Paige Pollard, who also works for J. David McCormack, is going to be “guiding our Historic Review Board” in matters such as the appropriateness of apartments in our historic Old School? I smell something and it isn’t flowers. What is this town thinking, I have to wonder? Can I say CONFLICT OF INTEREST?

  10. Mike Kuzma, Jr on May 31st, 2013 10:32 am

    We have surrendered our rights, and are allowing the Government to ‘sell’ them back to us in the form of ‘permits’.

    Mr. Burke is right.

  11. Dana Lascu on June 1st, 2013 12:25 am

    The chimney looks like an emaciated middle finger on that darling house. Mr. Chairman, be true to history and bring back the guillotine, but please let us lose that chimney, faux or not.

  12. Pete Baumann on June 2nd, 2013 6:57 am

    I don’t know what the new design and color of the home will look like, but the present look and feel of the sorta ugly vinyl siding and pencil-thin, useless chimney are terrible and awful. Preservation for preservation’s sake seems like something future historians will surely second guess. I also don’t think that the HRB is the gestapo. I supppose we can eliminate the board altogether unless it’s tied to historic district tax credits, in which case I surmise that some of the beleagured citizenry will prefer to keep their pitchforks and torches in their sheds and their tax dollars in their pockets.

  13. Jan Taylor-Day on June 5th, 2013 6:01 pm

    I agree with Dana Lascu. Please let the new owners lose the chimney.

    Although we are in favor of saving the historic character of a structure, my husband and I had three unsafe chimneys removed when we added central heating. and cooling installed (saving the old bricks for future use in a landscape plan). The removal was done with a town permit.

    I can understand not allowing architectural features to be removed from a building deemed to be historically important and significant . But in my view, the house in question doesn’t fall into that category.

    I am, of course, unaware of the age and history of the house in question and would welcome enlightenment as to the historical significance of the house in particular, and to the neighborhood, in general.