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Battle Continues over Historic District Ordinance

The Town Council upheld a decision of the Windover Heights Board of Review after some wrangling.

Once again, questions came up about the Windover Heights Historic District at the May 19 Vienna Town Council meeting, as Town Council members and Windover Heights homeowner Michael W. Covel grappled with the District's ordinance.

While Covel of Pleasant Street Northwest argued that the Windover Heights Board of Review rejected his application to construct a fence because the Town Code for the Historic District is unclear in its specifications, the Vienna Town Council countered that Covel had failed to supply basic information about the fence, so that the board had no other choice but to reject it.

The Council voted unanimously to uphold the decision of the Windover Heights Review Board to deny a Certificate of Appropriateness for the erection of a fence at 130 Pleasant St.

"What I'm asking, on the application checklist, show me where it is in the code," Covel responded, when asked why he failed to submit six dimensioned plans as required on the application. The plans ask the applicant to provide location of existing and proposed buildings and structures, landscaping changes, elevation drawings and texture and material samples.

"You seem adverse ... of answering the most reasonable of questions," countered councilwoman Maud Robinson, referring to the minutes of Covel's meeting with the Windover Heights Review Board.

Covel said he didn't supply some of the information requested on the application because he couldn't see where it was specifically asked for in the Town Code. Covel argued that because the ordinance code is vague, the Review Board could make and has made arbitrary decisions on previous applications.

"Texture and material doesn't read as color to me," said Covel, referring to the Town Code, which itemizes Certificate of Appropriateness criteria.

But Vienna mayor Jane Seeman replied that Covel's application was denied because it was incomplete.

"The form was not filled out," Seeman said.

Councilwoman Laurie Cole said the Town Code provides enough framework for the Windover Heights Review Board to make decisions.

"It is true that not every item is going to apply to every application ... but if the board must consider how the item proposed relates to adjacent [properties], then the board can ask about certain details," Cole said.