LIMA — Is steel siding on a commercial garage worth an update for a downtown building?
After an hour-plus discussion, Lima City Council voted for its approval.
The matter came before councilors Tuesday night as the last step in a lengthy process that began in October when Contractor Mike Frueh first began updating 201 E. North St. with metal siding and a stone facade.
According to Lima Chief Building Official Amy Harpster, Frueh had made two mistakes at the time. He failed to get the necessary permits on the commercial project and missed the requirement of going to the Downtown Design Review Board.
Later, when he did end up in front of the board, they denied the proposed updates. They pointed out that metal siding did not follow the its guidelines, which require historic materials. Frueh ended up in front of council on two different occasions to appeal the design review board’s decision.
Tuesday night, a large part of council’s discussion echoed its first meeting. Did the metal siding proposed by Frueh change the character of the neighborhood? Councilors largely agreed that it did not.
But they also considered some ancillary questions concerning the job of the Downtown Design Review Board. As in, what’s the point of it if council decides against it during an appeal?
“It’s kind of like being between a rock and a hard place. It looks nice what they want to do,” Councilor Todd Gordon said. “But I’d really hate to turn my back on the design review board as well.”
Councilor Peggy Ehora said she remembered when the design review board was first put in place in 2001 to ensure that downtown improvements maintained certain standards. At the time, she said the board helped influence a number of Market Street developments.
“I appreciate the design review process because it was a part of a system that was created to make sure the buildings looked like the way we wanted them to,” she said.
Other councilors broached the topic of consistency. Right now, Rhodes State College’s Borra Center for Health Sciences will be constructed with metal siding. If that’s the case, why can’t downtown property owners do the same?
Either way, councilors ended up giving their soft approval to update 201 E. North St. with metal siding. An official ordinance, however, will need to pass to confirm their decision.
The single dissenting vote Tuesday night was voiced by Councilor Jon Neeper, who aligned his vote with the Downtown Design Review Board’s original decision. He also called for council to consider changing the board’s guidelines in light of Frueh’s successful appeal.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.