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Landmark Commission postpones vote on Sixth Street rooftop deck

Friday, June 3, 2011 by Elizabeth Pagano

Vocally opposed, but uncertain whether they had the authority to prevent it, the Historic Landmark Commission voted unanimously last week to postpone making a recommendation on a proposed rooftop deck that would extend over East Sixth Street’s sidewalk.


Shakespeare’s Pub, located in the Sixth Street National Register Historic District, has plans to remove its existing awning and replace it with a rooftop deck that will extend 10 feet over the sidewalk. The Historic Landmark commission heard the case as an advisory review.


Though Jim Herbert, the agent for the applicant described the plans as “low key and simple,” that seemed not to be the consensus at the commission.


Shakespeare’s Pub provided pictures from the area surrounding the 314 East Sixth Street building which were intended to illustrate that the modification would be consistent with the character of the district. The pictures provided were of two story buildings, while the pub is only one story.


“While it’s keeping in the spirit, it is not historically accurate for this building,” said Historic Preservation Officer Steve Sadowsky.


Sadowsky also expressed concern that the renovations would violate the privacy of neighboring building, St. Charles House, which is a city landmark.


The Historic Preservation Office recommended that the proposed deck be limited to five feet. “This would prevent people from basically being out on the deck looking right in these people’s front windows,” said Sadowsky. To extend this railing out 10 feet is, in staff’s opinion, a real violation of the privacy of the folks who call the second floor of the St. Charles House home.”


As an alternative, Sadowsky also suggested construction of a privacy screen that would impede peering into neighboring windows.


Commissioner Patti Hansen questioned Sadowsky, asking him if the commission had clout on the matter, as the project was to extend over the sidewalk. “It’s inappropriate, it sets a dangerous precedent,” said Hansen .”And I visually think it’s going to be a little bit strange.”


“When people want to put things out on the sidewalk, we have authority,” said Chair Laurie Limbacher.


“Yes, indeed – to comment,” said Sadowsky. “We don’t have the authority absent a historic zoning case to either approve or deny this permit, so we just make comments.”


“I think we need to investigate the nexus of your authority in a national register district, absent a historic zoning case and the license agreement. Whether the commission’s comments will trump, or cause a problem for the license agreement,” said Sadowsky.


In this case, license agreements are approved by Public Works.


Limbacher asked that an investigation of the commission’s sidewalk authority be completed before the commission’s June 27 meeting. Limbacher also instructed Sadowsky to initiate a conversation with building officials about fire codes and building permits, commenting on how the initial rooftop deck, which extends to the face of the building, came to be.


“It also came to the commission after work had already begun, and there was a lot of concern about that from adjacent property owners and from building officials. Some of the work that you see today is work that was done before there was permission given to do anything, I think,” said Limbacher.


Before voting on the postponement, Vice-Chair John Rosato added one more directive. He asked staff to reconsider the final sentence of their recommendations, which states that the proposed deck is in keeping with the historical character of the street. “There is no way that this is keeping with the historical character of the street,” said Rosato.

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