A Portland Avenue homeowner who stepped out of a Heritage Preservation Commission meeting in 2017 has finally received city permission to replace the driveway outside of his 1890s duplex.
A positive 6-0 vote by St. Paul City Council last week marked a complete turnaround for Ray Meyer, whose long struggle roused critics of the city’s goalkeepers as they tried to expand their authority over historic property improvements.
Meyer, who was honored for the restoration of his house with historical precision, had long planned to replace the broken driveway with a herringbone pattern made of pressed concrete, which is somewhat reminiscent of red brick.
He was in the middle of the $ 60,000 project when the Conservation Commission halted work on the last 90 feet to the sidewalk. The panel voted 11-0 in November 2017 to block the project and had Meyer taken out of the meeting room to argue.
City commissioners and officials discovered at the time that punched concrete was atypical of the Historic Hill Heritage Preservation District and could create a false sense of history that was frowned upon by the historic preservation standards set by the US Secretary of the Interior.
Coloration was also addressed as a problem.
Meyer found evidence in his own back yard as well as in more than a dozen homes in the neighborhood that there was a precedent for brick driveways. It also won the support of the Ramsey Hill Association and five neighbors, but the commission was unmoved.
FIGHT GOES TO THE CITY COUNCIL
Meyer’s appointment to the city council has been repeatedly delayed, in part due to his decision to change attorneys.
Its supporters noted that the Heritage Preservation Commission has no explicit authority over driveways.
“The color and pattern of flat concrete surfaces are not what the HPC regulation dictates to the HPC,” wrote attorney Brian Alton on Meyer’s defense in an April 13 letter to the council.
City officials attempted to add driveways and other landscaping to the commission’s legislative agency after the conflict with Meyer came to light, but held back after public outcry.
At the appeal hearing on Wednesday, Councilor Dai Thao read lengthy, prepared remarks in favor of Meyer’s appeal. Thao said the commission had no power under city codes to base its findings on the color of the driveway or prevent the redevelopment of existing material.
“The concrete driveway that is being replaced is not an original construction. The record shows that it was installed in the 1970s and needs to be repaired, ”he said. “The complainant will replace an existing concrete driveway with concrete, which corresponds to the interior minister’s standards for the renovation.”
Thao, who represents the neighborhood, also noted that the city couldn’t show what material the driveway was built from before pouring concrete, which was installed about 40 or 50 years ago.
Meyer said Monday he was happy with the outcome of his three-year ascension saga, but not with the cost of filing appeals and hiring legal representation.
“It is very costly for me to hire a lawyer,” he said. “We’re talking about over $ 5,000. I am in retirement. Why should I have to do this for justice to be done? “