by Joshua Maloni
At Tuesday's Village of Lewiston Board meeting, trustees were unable to come to an agreement on the best course of action to rehab 700 Center St., Jack Lyon's and Kelly Wiepert's proposed wine store. Elected leaders will meet at that site on Thursday evening to analyze the structure's frame, of which Lyon said, "Boards are literally falling off the building."
A Village Board majority is looking for Lyon to replace wood with wood. But the Oregon architect said his preference is to cover his property's exterior wood siding with low-maintenance vinyl (at a cost of around $30,000). Lyon's contractor, John Tripi Jr. of J.R. Building and Remodeling, said it would cost up to $90,000 to find, install and paint wood. Lyon said he and Wiepert had planned to put between $375,000 and $400,000 into the project, and couldn't afford to spend that much more on siding.
Last week, the Historic Preservation Commission/Planning Board voted in favor of modifying Lyon's proposal to include silver/gray Dutch lap vinyl siding with white, non-vinyl trim, detailing and corner boards. Members said they did not want to lose the building, or its owners, but could not OK vinyl siding for a historic building. As such, the board voted to rescind 700 Center St.'s historic designation.
Village Board members acknowledged the building's condition, but could not find consensus on a solution. Trustees Bruce Sutherland and Nick Conde were in favor of holding Lyon accountable to his original plan, which was to use wood and restore the building.
While that's what the Planning and Village boards approved in February, Sutherland said Lyon had since deviated from this plan.
"When the Planning Board initially approved the project, it was for wood siding and wood windows," he said. "It was the buyer that said he wanted to keep the significance of the building and restore it.
"I think we should hold his feet to the fire on that," he added. "I mean, we can go along with so much of this for so long. Even though we maybe have made errors in the past and allowed things to happen, that doesn't mean that we should continue to do that. I think we should stop it and do things the right way."
Sutherland said Lyon, "has a responsibility that he agreed to the plan of it and, it's unfortunate, but maybe he should've done some more homework on it."
Trustee Dennis Brochey said it would be difficult to approve lower-cost siding for Lyon when other building owners on Center Street have paid for more expensive restorations.
"If we start letting this go by, the next person to come by might want the same leeway," he said. "We can't pick and choose."
His colleague, Trustee Vic Eydt, suggested using wood on the front of the building, and vinyl on the back and on the new additions. He also asked Lyon to look into grant money to repair the historic building.
Trustees said the circa-1800s building should remain historically designated. The board voted 5-0 to reverse the Planning Board's Aug. 29 ruling that the historic certification be revoked.
Collesano said 700 Center St., was the village's first drugstore, and, over time, its owners included prominent Lewistonians Peter Porter, Benjamin Barton and Bates Cooke.
"History is there," Collesano said.
"I'm not in favor of taking the designation off that building," he added.
Collesano said he didn't want the project held up, and was in favor of approving Lyon's request for vinyl siding.
"Everyone, I'm sure, that likes to restore old buildings, they want to keep it as close as possible. And if you could use wood siding, they use wood siding. However, in preservation, it's not necessarily a fact that you have to keep the same materials," Collesano said. "There's many buildings that have been done where vinyl siding can be used, and they will allow vinyl siding provided the same character of design and the structure - the looks of it - would be similar to wood."
"That's where the Historical Preservation Committee is supposed to be working with you, and evidently they failed on this by taking the designation away," Collesano told Lyon. "That was wrong."
Lyon said he didn't expect the wood to be in such disrepair. He budgeted for paint, but not for new siding.
"Sure, we'd love to look at putting new wood back to match the existing, but it's so cost-prohibitive," he said. "We were planning on, when we bought the building, 'It's going to need paint.' That's now turned into, 'Oh my gosh, we've got to re-side the building with something.'
"Just the economic viability of the project. We've stalled. We're talking about a difference of $70,000-$80,000 between wood versus vinyl."
Lyon said the average person could not tell the difference between wood and the Dutch-lap vinyl he wants to use.
"I guess I don't see the big difference ... if we match the profile and we're matching all the trim, what the big deal is about putting a different finished material on it - vinyl versus wood," he said. "It's going to look exactly the same."
After more than a half hour of discussions in the conference room, trustees stepped out into the hallway and then into the mayor's office to meet in private and seek a resolution. Unable to do that after almost another half hour, they returned to the conference room and tabled a motion to approve the modified proposal the Planning Board OK'd for Lyon.
The Village Board will meet at 700 Center St., on Thursday, and could hold a special session next week to adopt a repair strategy.
When asked, trustees were hard-pressed to name a building on Center Street that has what they consider quality vinyl siding.
Trustees said Lyon's decision to install vinyl windows and modern doors, which was contrary to what he originally proposed, did give them pause.
Some village residents have wondered if Lyon knew his building was in such disrepair when dormers and other additions were appended in the spring.
Lyon left before the meeting ended and was headed back to Oregon. So that question was posed to the trustees. They said the Planning Board made a similar inquiry and was told Lyon discovered the inferior walls after the fact.
But "He should've had a good idea; he is an architect," Conde said.
Eydt agreed and said, "This isn't his first time at bat."
When reached on Thursday, Lyon said he became aware of the state of the walls concurrent to the construction work. He noted he had several issues to deal with at that time, including the unexpected loss of his original contractor.
Lyon confused some, too, when he said Eydt's plan - to mix wood and vinyl - would result in two different looks. This was after he said the two materials would be indistinguishable.
When the board was asked for an explanation on that, Collesano said, "Somebody that has an eye for that could see the difference."
"I think if the two of them were together - one's wood and one's vinyl - then you could tell the difference," Sutherland said.
Moving forward, Village of Lewiston Historian Pam Hauth agreed with the Village Board that removing the historic designation was not the best idea.
"While it's good news that people want to come and save our buildings, and I sympathize with Mr. Lyon for the issues that you've run into with an old building. ... Somehow I don't think the solution to the problem is to rescind its historic designation. If it was historic then, it surely is historic now.
"I think it will send the wrong message to anybody else who might want to work on some of our other historic treasures that if something comes up, a surprise in an old building - and there's always a surprise in an old building; you're lucky if there's just one surprise in an old building - that if a surprise pops up, all you have to do is get the village to rescind the historic designation and you're good to go."
Hauth suggested trustees add a provision when considering future building proposals that the owner show he has sufficient funds to overcome potential roadblocks and stay true to an approved plan.
700 Center St., is the site of the former Amy K's Mystick Korner.