The O'Neals vs the HDC
Last spring Heather O'Neal asked the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission for permission to re-place three rotting windows in her B&B, the Eighth Street Trekkers' Lodge. The HDC made two site visits-and denied the request.
According to O'Neal, a representative "rapped on the bottom of one sash and proclaimed, 'These windows can be repaired!'"
It turned out they could-if money were no object. An engineering firm O'Neal hired concluded that repairing the existing window sashes would cost $13,084-compared to $7,708 for installing visually identical modern replacements. The HDC-whose guidelines stress repair of historic features rather than replacement-wouldn't budge. Backed by her mother and landlord, Karen, O'Neal then appealed to an administrative law judge in Detroit, who upheld the HDC's decision. Finally they took their case to the Michigan Historic Preservation Review Board-which, to their amazement, voted 7-1 in their favor. City attorney Steve Postema was reviewing the state decision in September, and the city still might appeal. But for now, at least, it appears that O'Neal will be allowed to save $5,376-or what's left of it after all the engineering and architectural fees. Given all the hassles, she wonders, "Why would anyone want to live in a historic district?"
[Originally published in October, 2008.]