WINCHESTER — The Board of Architectural Review (BAR) is making it clear that vinyl is not welcome in Old Town Winchester.
The board on Thursday amended its guidelines to clarify that vinyl and vinyl-clad windows cannot be used in the construction of new commercial buildings.
“This was a glaring omission,” BAR Chairman Kevin Walker said. It came to light last month when the Winchester Economic Development Authority and Providence Capital LLC sought approval of window materials for EPicc Lofts, a five-story, 51,000-square-foot building planned for the northeast corner of East Piccadilly and North Kent streets.
Ultimately, the BAR approved windows made of a vinyl and wood composite that was sturdier than typical vinyl windows and did a better job mimicking natural wood.
EPicc Lofts, which is proposed to include 44 apartments, two retail stores or restaurants and indoor parking, will be a rare example of a completely new commercial structure in the downtown Historic District, where most construction projects involve renovating existing buildings. Since new commercial projects are rarely proposed, the BAR didn’t realize its guidelines were somewhat vague regarding appropriate materials for such structures.
“Adding this, I think, fixes that,” Walker said.
The amendment to Old Town Winchester’s construction guidelines is based on language used in Richmond’s policies regarding its historic district: “Because the material cannot be manufactured to model effectively the appearance of historic windows, vinyl windows are not appropriate for contributing buildings in historic districts.”
Walker also noted the manufacturing of vinyl windows is a highly toxic process, and discarded vinyl window materials take up landfill space because they cannot be recycled.
“It’s always good to consider new materials, but I’ve never seen a good vinyl window,” he said.
The board unanimously adopted the amendment, which now goes to City Council for final approval.
Also on Thursday, the BAR unanimously approved the demolition of a stand-alone garage that began to deteriorate after its owner was diagnosed with cancer and could no longer maintain the building.
The structure is behind a single-family house at 405 S. Cameron St. owned by Sue A. Spitler, an elderly widow who cannot afford to make repairs.
While Walker said the building “has good bones,” he agreed it would make little sense to try and salvage it.
“There’s not a real reason at this time to keep it in this state,” he said.
Attending Thursday afternoon’s Winchester Board of Architectural Review meeting in Rouss City Hall were Chairman Kevin Walker, Vice Chairwoman Patricia Jackson and members Don Packard Jr., Anne Walker Schroth, Beth Elgin and Kyle Hopkins. Samar Jafri was absent.