BERLIN – After a lengthy discussion over the merits of wood windows, the Berlin Historic District Commission agreed to allow composite windows in a home on Broad Street.
The commission voted 3-2, with members Carol Rose and Betty Tustin opposed, to permit the installation of composite windows — made of an acrylic blend — at the historic home at 26 Broad St.
“I have no problem with the quality of the windows,” commission member Mary Moore said. “If we get so nitpicky trying to meet state and federal standards, what does that say to people? In this day and age if someone wants to take a derelict home, one that was never a fine home, and fix it up I’m thrilled.”
Berlin residents Cate and Ryan Nellans purchased the long vacant home at 26 Broad St. last summer. They’ve spent the ensuing months working to restore the circa 1900 home.
Cate Nellans approached the historic district commission this week seeking approval to replace the home’s existing windows with composite windows from Interstate Window and Door Co. She said that though they’d planned to install wood windows, they’d received inaccurate information on pricing and realized they couldn’t afford to have new wood windows built. Instead, she proposed using the composite windows created by Interstate Window and Door Co. Company representative Rich Capece showed commission members two sample windows. He explained that the composite material was developed to look like wood.
“Our goal was to do exactly what needed to be done to match a wood window,” he said, adding that the product was made with a little PVC as well as acrylic. “It matches milled lumber to the T.”
Capece stressed that the windows were stable and came with lifetime warranties. They’re able to be painted and are custom made for each home.
“We’ve done everything but cut a tree down to make this window,” he said.
Commission member Joel Todd said he was concerned that the window frame, which was to be white, would appear glossy.
“This looks a little shiny to me,” he said. “The white looks plastic.”
Capece replied that a flat paint could be used to prevent the finish from appearing shiny.
Carol Rose, chair of the commission, said she could not support the installation of a non-wood window.
“I’ve been on the board 12 years,” she said. “Any single-family home we’ve always required wooden windows. If we let you do it, we’re setting a precedent.”
Todd pointed out that the commission had allowed vinyl windows on a number of buildings downtown, including the Atlantic Hotel and a home on Jefferson Street.
“Another thing in my mind is this house was an eyesore for years,” he said. “Whatever is going to be done is an improvement.”
He added that he might refrain from permitting vinyl windows on a home if it was of particular historic significance.
“It appears they tried to meet us halfway with composite,” he added.
Dave Engelhart, the town’s planning director, told the commission he’d been in the window business for years and complimented the product Capece presented.
“Windows like the Atlantic Hotel did,” Engelhart said, “they’re square, stock vinyl. The least expensive way of doing it. This is about the best you can do.”
When the commission asked for comments from the public, Barb Stack, a member of the town’s planning commission, said it wasn’t clear what standards the historic district commission was following.
“Berlin’s historic district has guidelines but they seem to use them sometimes and not other times,” she said.
She pointed out that last month, the commission approved plans for vinyl windows at Taylor Bank and the Atlantic Hotel.
“You’re being very inconsistent,” she said.
Stack’s husband, Rick, resigned from the historic district commission last month, citing the board’s inconsistency on the issue of vinyl windows as his reason for doing so.
Moore thanked Stack for her comment but said that each situation was different.
“There is no perfection in the world,” she said. “Each case is different.”
Todd made a motion to approve the composite windows as long as they were painted a flat white. The motion passed 3-2.