ANGOLA – Steuben Circuit Court Judge Allen Wheat has fined a downtown business owner $ 150 a day to bring his windows up to standards set by the Angola Historic Preservation Commission.
The fines on developer Thomas Blake started on November 1st and will run until February 10th or until a resolution is found. If no resolution is passed by February 10, the fine increases to $ 300 a day, Wheat ruled. Even in the early days, fines totaling 15,150 US dollars could be imposed.
Wheat ordered the Historic Preservation Commission and their advisor Deb Parcell of Indiana Landmarks to work with Blake to bring the building into line with the city’s historic building codes.
“The Commission and Deb Parcell will work with Thomas P. Blake to assist him in all possible ways so that the six large windows can be brought into line with Angola’s heritage protection ordinances,” the Wheat decision said.
“We welcome the opportunity to discuss possible window restoration solutions in person, over the phone or via video conference,” Parcell wrote in an email to Michael Campo, CFO of Blake’s company, on Monday.
“We are of course disappointed with Judge Wheat’s decision by the court. However, we will comply with all aspects of the order including, but not limited to, working with the Indiana Landmarks representative to find a solution. The intention to move to our Angola headquarters has always been a win-win for both the community and Our Country Home Enterprises Inc. / Entrust Capital Management. We hope that a quick solution to the window gate can be resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned, ”Campo said in a statement to The Herald Republican via email.
Blake has been renovating the building since he bought it earlier this year. He plans to use the building for the headquarters of a number of companies that will employ 15 to 20 people.
Angola and its Historic Preservation Commission sued Blake in November after contractors installed new windows on the north side of the old First National Bank building, 15 S. Public Square, without first obtaining a certificate of adequacy from the historic agency.
Soloman Lowenstein, Blake’s attorney, argued in a November 23 trial that the city’s historic monument protection ordinance did not specifically affect window replacement and therefore did not apply to his client.
In his decision, Wheat said that changing the large windows would be “a noticeable change in the external appearance of this historic bank building” and would therefore fall under the provision of the regulation requiring a certificate of adequacy.
“The new windows that were installed at this point have become an integral part of the bank building, not just an addition to it,” said Wheat.
In October, the Historic Preservation Commission decided not to provide Blake with a certificate of eligibility to replace windows in the bank building. Blake’s contractors installed new windows in early November and the city filed for a restraining order to stop the work. When the matter got to Wheat, the window replacement was complete.
During the trial, Parcell said the change to the windows was significant as new features on the windows affected the vertical nature of the originals. The new windows, while the same opening size, contain two horizontal elements that she said detracted from the vertical appearance of the original windows.
The original windows contained individual panes of glass mounted in an iron frame. The metal rusted and became unsafe, with witnesses for Blake testifying in court.
Wheat’s decision appears to allay prosecutor Kim Shoup’s concerns. At the November trial, Shoup argued that if the court did not rule in favor of the Preservation Commission, it would effectively render the Chamber and Angola’s Historic Monuments Act unusable.
This story has been updated to include comments from Michael Campo speaking on behalf of builder Thomas Blake.
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