GALION — Ann Heimlich has new windows for her building at 107 Harding Way East. But she’s not allowed to install them.
Heimlich provided Galion City Council with a letter about the issue at the council’s regular meeting last Tuesday, but the council members said their hands are tied … that the issue begins with the city’s Uptowne Design Review Board.
“Ann did not file an application with the board until I gave her a stop-work order,” said Bob Johnston, the city’s building inspector.
Johnston received phone calls from other business owners stating that windows being installed in on the third floor of a building she owns just off the square were not consistent with the rules and regulations of the design review board.
Linda Chambers, secretary of the design review board, said the windows Heimlich purchased do not meet the requirements to keep within the building’s historic appearance.
“The original windows are wood, but she wants to install vinyl windows,” said Chambers.
Heimlich said the vinyl windows can be wrapped in wood, but that will cost more money.
“I already spent $2,500,” Heimlich said. “The old windows were rotted and about to fall onto the sidewalk below. My contractor was able to get one installed before we had to stop the work, but the other two are boarded up.”
Dan Brown, chair of the design review board, said if Heimlich had filed her application before she started work on her building, she would have known what type of windows to purchase.
“We feel bad, but we have rules to follow,” Brown said.
Chris Stone, a local business owner and member of the board, said he had to follow the correct procedure and everyone else should have to also.
Stone was upset during a meeting on Thursday of the board regarding an application filed by local dentist and Galion City Council member Tom Fellner.
“He filed his application after the work was underway to replace windows in his building. Saying you forgot about the procedure does not fly with me,” Stone said.
Board members agreed the windows Fellner installed were consistent with the rules and regulations of the historic design for the building.
A vote by the board on Fellner’s application resulted in a tie which means it was denied.
Stone said for the integrity of the board, he would like to revisit the vote. The application was then approved, five to one.
The board agreed that they need to revisit their policies since there is no penalty they can apply if someone does not file an application in a timely manner.
“We want our procedures to be user-friendly,” said Chambers.
City law director Thomas Palmer said design review in Galion has a strong and positive track record.
“It has been in place for 21 years and only two decisions by the board have been appealed,” he said.
Palmer said Heimlich’s last appeal would be within the county court system.
Heimlich said she is not sure what her next step will be.
Palmer said the city’s design review process is one of the least cumbersome for property owners in the state.
“Over 100 communities in Ohio have some form of design review and Galion’s is not the most restrictive,” he said.
An example,he said, is in Galion, owners can replace windows any time they want to and for any reason ,while in other cities, owners have to prove original windows cannot be repaired.
Galion has three design review boards including the Uptowne, the Harding Way West and Historic West Main.
Palmer asked the board to offer a workshop for local business owners and property owners.
“After the rules and procedures are revised, I think a workshop would be beneficial so that all business and property owners in the area know and understand what is expected of them as well as the grants and other financial opportunities that are available since the city has a design review board,” Palmer said.
The board agreed to organize a workshop within the next few months.
Reach Gasuras on Twitter: @kimberlygasuras