Rules a pain in the glass

Daniel MacEachern
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Homeowner says heritage requirements would triple cost to replace windows

The owner of a St. John’s property at the centre of a fight over heritage status says city hall’s requirements would triple his cost of replacing windows.

The owner of 133 Gower Street in downtown St. John’s, Lionel West, says he shouldn't have to put larger, more costly windows on his property because of heritage rules. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Lionel West — who ran for city council last fall — said Monday replacing the windows he has now on his Gower Street rental property with heritage committee-approved windows would require redesigning and restructuring the front of the house, while the windows he wants to put in would fit the current spaces.

“What they’re asking us to do is put in single-hung windows that are much longer and in some cases wider than the current windows we have there,” he said. “That means we would have to ask our contractor to basically restructure the entire front of our house. It means creating what they call new rough openings for the windows to go in. To do that, they’ll have to strip all the clapboard off the front and put new clapboard on.”

Interior work would also have to be done, including putting up new drywall and window coverings and redecorating. The job West wants done will cost about $2,500, and he estimates the work the city would require would triple that.

The windows he has proposed are, he says, in keeping with the heritage style of the neighbourhood, and he wonders whether the city’s heritage regulations are practical — or enforced consistently. “There are many kinds of windows within the neighbourhood,” he said. “Four doors down from the house we have, there’s a house that has windows very similar to what we want to put in.”

What they’re asking us to do is put in single-hung windows that are much longer and in some cases wider than the current windows we have there. That means we would have to ask our contractor to basically restructure the entire front of our house. Homeowner Lionel West

When the city’s heritage committee wanted to reject West’s preferred windows, he appealed to ward councillor Jonathan Galgay, and the resulting split vote at council allowed West an exception. Since then, city staff have told council that the city’s heritage regulations don’t allow for them to make exceptions, and councillors next week will vote on a motion to reverse that exception.

If the city does reverse its decision, West — who said he wants to replace the windows because his tenants have found them drafty — says he’ll have to talk to his contractor again.

“(We’ll) see if there’s any alternative in terms of trying to work around the issue and see if we can somehow make some adjustments inside the house and leave the current windows there,” he said.

 “At this stage, we’re not prepared to spend that sort of money on the house, because we just don’t have it, and I certainly don’t want to be passing costs on to my tenants.”

Geographic location: Gower Street

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Recent comments

  • Y'all's what
    August 19, 2014 - 09:59

    The guy knew the rules were in place when he decided to be a landlord. Why is he whining about them now? He could have just bought stock in a company instead. Not everyone should be in business.

  • dontgetmestarted
    August 19, 2014 - 08:01

    I would think the tenant would encourage more light. What are the windows in the back like?

  • C. S.
    August 19, 2014 - 07:52

    Mr. West has run for City Council on at least 2 occasions and describes himself as a "city activist". I would suggest his complaints are meant to raise his public profile more than they are meant to save him some money on renovations. If he does not like the rules pertaining to exterior renovations in the downtown, he ought to have purchased a rental property elsewhere.

  • Glenn Stockley
    August 19, 2014 - 07:23

    I agree with Mr. West. St. John's has much more pressing issues that this heritage nonsense which is another waste of the taxpayers money....

  • John Smith
    August 19, 2014 - 07:14

    How can that place even be legal? It looks like it's about 8 feet wide. Everyone else had to abide by these rules, and so should he. I don't think subsidizing is the answer either, home ownership is expensive, deal with it...

  • Saucy Face
    August 19, 2014 - 06:46

    If Lionel West lived in that home and had done so since the 70's, I'd be all for him. But since he hasn't and the house is a rental business, he bought into a Heritage area knowing what the rules were before hand. If he claims he didn't know, then he's either lying or an idiot and he's getting what he deserves.