Vinyl windows land Richmond homeowner in trouble with law

Posted at 12:42 AM, Feb 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-26 00:53:27-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)— Council chambers were packed from floor to the back door Monday night.

A crowd so big  expressed sentiments just as large about their historic community pains, in this case, window panes specifically.

"Please, please help our historic taxpayer citizens," said one of about fifty neighbors from historic districts that spoke to Richmond City Council members.

"I think it would be a shame if other homes along this street could have vinyl windows," said one member of the city’s Commission of Architectural  Review (CAR).

The unusual turnout was inspired by one Monument Avenue neighbor who replaced his windows and another who reported him for using the wrong materials to do it. Now the homeowner is charged with two misdemeanors for not getting the proper approval and not following historic guidelines.

"I would encourage you to protect this very important district and not erode the character of this district," said a passionate representative from CAR.

The homeowner at the center of the controversy, Thomas Houghton, replaced his historic wood frame windows with vinyl ones after a contractor told him the old ones needed replacement. Houghton claims he didn't know he needed approval from CAR before he did it.

His next door neighbor defended Houghton,  claiming he keeps an immaculate home.

"I've lived there six years and they've already repainted the house twice," she said.

Even so CAR wants the windows removed and replaced with the original wood to stay within historic guidelines. Houghton's lawyer, former councilman Bill Pantele, wants the CAR ruling overturned by council.

He highlighted a half a dozen properties on Monument that CAR has approved for vinyl windows and cites more than a half a dozen more on Houghton's block alone that are already using them, including his next door neighbor. Pantele also pointed to the expense.

A contractor estimated that replacing several of the wood frames would cost close to $50,000 dollars.

"What about all these other properties that we just read to you. He shouldn't have to be singled out and treated differently," said Pantele.

Council chose not to take action on the matter just yet. They hope that CAR and Houghton will reach some resolution this week. If not, the council will decide the issue with a vote next Monday.