January 26, 2009
I found out about your organization on the internet and thought you might be able to assist/guide me in fighting my local Historic District Commission. Here is my Property Rights problem.
Last year (2007) after some pretty high winter heating bills I decided to replace all of the old constantly in need of repair wood windows in my house with the new high energy efficiency vinyl ones with the insulated glass. Several contractors told me that would surely cut down on my heating bills and the cost would be recouped in only a few years. As a side note, I retired last year from running a lobster boat for the past fifteen years due to health and other factors limiting my ability to continue making a living on the water. Prior to that I had been a licensed building contractor in the state of Rhode Island. Back then there was no permit required to install replacement windows and I had done several in the past. Present contractors I had spoken with told me that was still the case.
In May of 2007 when the weather permitted I started removing the old windows and preparing the holes for new ones. I kept the storm windows on the house to keep any bad weather from entering: I had placed my order with the window manufacturer and they told me they would inform me when my windows were on the manufacturing line at the factory. When they called to tell me my windows were being built I sent them the rest of the purchase price and started disposing of my old windows several at a time each week in the trash.
While waiting for the new windows to be delivered in June one day a man came into my driveway and introduced himself as the city building inspector. He said my neighbor had told him about my replacing my windows and informed me I needed a permit. I told him I had never needed a permit before and he told me the rules had recently changed. He read the zoning law different than the previous building inspector and I now needed a permit. I agreed to come to his office and pay the fee for a permit. He then told me that before he could issue a permit I had to have a hearing before the Historic District Commission and obtain a certificate of appropriateness. I paid the $100.00 required to have a hearing and they scheduled a hearing date for the 19th of August. I spent the summer without the windows installed leaving them stacked against the walls in each room.
At the hearing in August they berated me for disposing of the old wood windows. When I interjected that they were rotted and beyond reasonable repair they said they would have been the judge of that if I had come to them. Since I had been nursing them along since I bought the house in 1970 I knew as a contractor whether they were worthy of repair or not and they were not. They leaked and rattled with even the smallest wind gust. They refused to give me the Certificate of Appropriateness and ordered me to purchase new wood windows identical to what had been in the house. The vinyl windows I bought retail for $320.00. The wood ones they ordered me to get retail for $850.00. There are 25 windows in the house. They felt that vinyl was not in the original house and therefore it was incongruous with the house.
I appealed their decision to the Zoning Board of review, (another $163.00 fee) but they refused to overturn the decision of the HDC. They kicked it back to them for reconsideration mentioning I should argue undue financial hardship since they know I borrowed against my life insurance policy to pay for the vinyl windows. That loan has yet to be repaid.
At the HDC meeting in December of 2007 they still refused the Certificate of Appropriateness. One member said perhaps I should sell my house to someone wealthier than I that would be willing to install wood windows. That made me so angry I left the meeting to cool off and think of my next move. When I returned the chairman handed me a piece of paper saying it was the best they could do for my case. The paper said I could install the vinyl windows temporarily since it was winter and they understood the heat was on in the house and use them for the winter. I had already installed them in September when the heat first started coming on anyway and I thought they would probably relent on their original decision. The paper further ordered me to start within the next 18 months to begin replacing the windows on the south side of the house and work my way around the house finishing within 3 years.
When I bought the house in 1970 I was never told I was buying it in conjunction with the HDC. They never helped me save for the down payment or work two jobs to pay the mortgage over the years. They never paid my property taxes or helped me maintain the house all these years. Why then do they now have the right to steal what I bought and paid for and make me conform it to their collectivist whim? I find the very existence of a commission with more than an advisory power to be reprehensible in America when it comes to private property. It completely militates against my sense of what it is to be an American.
Who am I? I am a 62 year old born in America citizen. I served in the Marine Corps from 1965 to 1970 and am a combat veteran having served in Vietnam from late 1967 to early 1969. My first job was picking potatoes in Idaho at the age of 9 to pay for school clothes. I have been gainfully employed my whole life and have payed my share of taxes. I have been married 40 years and have 5 gainfully employed children. Any help or guidance to fight these people would be greatly appreciated.