The Astoria City Council decided not to take a stand in a window lawsuit brought against the city by the owners of a historic home battling the Lower Columbia Preservation Society to replace wood with vinyl composite.
Thomas and Priscilla Levy sued the city for missing a 120-day deadline to determine whether they could replace 19 wooden windows with a wood-plastic composite known as Fibrex. The Historic Landmarks Commission approved the application over the objections of city staff before the preservation society appealed.
The City Council was scheduled in January to decide for or against the appeal. But the meeting was scheduled just after the deadline expired.
The Levys argue the windows are rotting and beyond repair. The preservation society contends that the city’s approval of the window replacement violates ordinances meant to protect historic architecture.
The preservation society filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit and defend the appeal. Members of the society called on the city to help defend ordinances protecting historic architecture.
“We believe that you councilors would have seen our evidence at the appeals hearing in January and likely would have agreed that several of the historic design review criteria were not met,” said Rachel Jensen, the executive director of the preservation society.
Doug Thompson, the president of the society’s board, said the city risked not being a part of the solution to a lawsuit about its own process for protecting historic architecture.
“It seems to me the city does have a dog in this fight,” Thompson said.
City Councilor Roger Rocka said Tuesday that the council received conflicting reports about the condition of the windows but was unable to hear the Levys and preservation society make their cases before the matter was taken out of the city and into court.
“I think if you were going to be able to successfully argue it before the council, I think you could successfully argue it for a court as well,” Rocka said. “But we just never got the facts of the situation. So personally, I wouldn’t know which position to take.”
Mayor Bruce Jones argued that the City Council had reviewed the materials from the Levys and preservation society in preparation to make a decision on the appeal in January.
“Certainly all those thoughts have gone into our thoughts tonight as well,” Jones said.