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Geneva man in bind for fixing up house in historic district
By Susan Sarkauskas | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/27/2008 12:21 AM

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A Geneva man is appealing a court ruling that said he was wrong for replacing windows on his house in a historic district, but the city hasn't yet been told what the basis for the appeal is.

And so far, the City of Geneva has spent more than $21,000 on legal bills defending its right to preserve the historic character of buildings, and expects to spend $4,000 to $7,000 more fighting the appeal.

Walter Stackman, of 406 S. Sixth St., had a contractor replace eight wood windows on his 1940s-era home in early 2006 with vinyl windows. The home is in the Geneva Historic District; buildings in that district typically have to meet standards set by the secretary of the interior when having work done.

The Geneva Historic Preservation Commission, which governs building and remodeling activity in the district, ruled in July 2006 that Stackman should have applied for building permits for the work. Had he applied for the permits, the case would have been sent to the HPC for review, and they would have required Stackman to prove that the existing wood windows could not be saved or at least be replaced with a similar-looking new wood window.

Stackman appealed to the city council, which upheld the HPC decision. Stackman then took the city to court.

In October, Judge Michael Colwell ruled that the city and the HPC did have the authority to require Stackman to apply for the permits, and that they were correct in denying him the permits when he did apply in July 2006, after the windows had already been replaced.

According to the city's attorney, Ken Hoch, Stackman has until Feb. 8 to file the documents explaining why he thinks the court erred in its decision.

Stackman's attorney has not returned two calls for comment. During testimony before the HPC, the attorney argued restoring the wood windows would be too expensive for Stackman, and that the new windows were more energy-efficient.

The judge ruled a hardship must be because of the property itself, not the individual circumstances of the property owner.

The city has not decided any punitive action, such as fines, or remedial action, such as replacing the windows, for Stackman.