Historic Zoning Commission delays decision on chimney removal

Published 12:18 pm Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Elizabethton’s Historic Zoning Commission delayed a decision on a certificate of appropriateness to remove a chimney from a home while additional options can be researched.
Elizabethton Director of Planning and Development Jon Hartman explained McKinley Fletcher, 222 S. Sycamore St., wanted to remove the chimney in his home to be able to expand a closet.
The commission ran into a conflict with the request because either approving or denying the certificate of appropriateness would have violated different regulations for the commission.
Because the majority of the chimney is inside the home, it fell out of the jurisdiction of the historic zoning commission. Because of this, denying the request would mean the commission was overstepping its boundaries and telling the resident what could or could not be done inside the home.
In turn, a portion of the chimney was visible from the outside of the home because it extended through the roof. For this part, approving the request would have violated the commission’s standards that no identifiable features of a home, including chimneys, be removed unless it is structurally necessary.
Hartman said the commission’s architect, Forrest Bennett, who was not present at the meeting, recommended the request be approved because the chimney was not a “pivotal feature” of the home and was barely visible from the outside of the structure.
However, he added city staff recommended the request be denied because tearing down the visible portion of the chimney would be in violation of the historic standards.
Commissioner Jacey Augustus described the request as a “Catch-22.”
“If we approve this, we are in violation of our own codes,” she said. “If we deny it, we are going against the recommendation of the architect and telling a resident what can happen inside their own home.”
Commissioner Jeff Treadway said the timing of the request was unfortunate because of the recent issues surrounding the historic district expansion.
“It is unfortunate with what we just acted on, but now we are going to tell him he can’t take down his chimney,” Treadway said. “There has to be a way to do both.”
After some discussion, the commission questioned whether it was possible for him to remove the interior portion of the chimney but to leave the part that was outside of the roof and re-enforce it inside the attic so it would be stable.
Commissioner Helen Wilson made a motion to defer the request until the next meeting so Bennett could visit the home again to see if there was a way to preserve the exterior portion. Augustus seconded the motion and it was unanimously approved.
Following the one item of business, the commission heard a presentation from Tennessee Historical Commission Certified Local Government Coordinator Dan Brown. Brown shared information on how to maintain legal meetings and procedures.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox