Excerpt from the Frederick News-Post:
A West Third Street property owner and the city’s Historic Preservation Commission struck a compromise Thursday regarding placement of a gas meter on the front of the building.
James Callear, owner of the brick town house at 133 W. Third St. in the Frederick Town Historic District, is now allowed to keep a Washington Gas utility meter on the facade of the property. However, after a unanimous HPC vote Thursday, he must move it to a different location adjacent to a set of stairs, where city staff members believe it will be more easily hidden.
The decision comes after three months of discussion regarding the propriety of the meter placement within the guidelines of the city’s historic district.
The guidelines state that utility boxes and meters cannot be on the facades of historic buildings. They also state that the commission can, however, approve meter boxes on building fronts if no other option is available.
Citing information from the gas company, Callear consistently said the facade is the only viable location that meets all of the utility’s safety and access requirements.
He took that information to the Historic Preservation Commission in December in hopes of persuading commissioners to let the meter remain on the front of the building. But in a 5-2 vote, commissioners denied Callear’s request, prompting him to bring the matter back again in January for reconsideration.
In a 5-1 majority, commissioners agreed to the reconsideration, which brought the matter to Thursday’s meeting.
Callear said he met Monday with Lisa Mroszczyk Murphy, the city’s historic preservation planner; Matt Davis, the city’s manager of comprehensive planning; and three representatives from Washington Gas, who all attended Thursday’s meeting, and discussed potential options for relocating the meter.
Callear said they looked into trenching the gas line from the sidewalk through the alley back to the side of the house. That option, however, involved getting permission from the neighboring property owner, who also has ownership rights to the alley. Caller said the property owner refused to grant a right of way to Washington Gas for the line, thus nixing that option.
Callear said Washington Gas representatives also looked into relocating the meter in the basement, but determined that was not a viable option either.
Washington Gas representative Steve Campbell said Thursday that utility workers cannot easily access the basement for regular maintenance or in emergencies, thus making the location inadequate.
Davis and Mroszczyk Murphy determined after Monday’s meeting that the best place for the meter is on the front of the property, but suggested moving it closer to the steps in front of the house, so it can be more easily camouflaged. They, in turn, made that recommendation to the HPC and commissioners voted in favor of it after some discussion.
Commissioner Carrie Albee had some questions about the inability to locate the meter in the basement. Commissioner Stephen Parnes suggested having better communication with utility officials when making these types of decisions in the future.
Two residents also made public comments objecting to keeping the meter on the facade.
Callear, who plans to renovate the building and turn it into a single-family residence, can now move forward with the project. He told the commissioners he appreciates their time and effort to reconsider the decision and work with him.