When Georgetown City Administrator Chris Eldridge and his wife, Stephanie, moved into their home at 327 Duke Street they planned to renovate the house by removing the old asbestos siding and replace it with HardiePlank.

But, like everyone else who owns property in the city’s Historic District, the couple had to get the blessing of the Architectural Review Board in order to make the changes.

They began that process in November but were told they would have to return in December with more information about what is underneath the asbestos siding that currently covers the house.

Eldridge returned to the ARB Monday night. Since the first meeting, he removed the asbestos siding from a few areas of the home and found the original siding of the home — built in 1939 — was sheeting, a material commonly used in the days before plywood.

At Monday’s meeting, Eldridge was told his house is currently not a house that contributes to the Historic District, but if the years of significance are expanded, it would be a contributor.

Even though the ARB guidelines indicate houses with asbestos siding must keep that particular siding, one board member said he feels there are times other factors, other than the guidelines, need to be considered.

“I have struggled with the siding issue on this house,” said member Dwayne Vernon. “In my opinion, asbestos siding is something that does not need to be saved. Maybe we do not need to follow our guidelines letter for letter. It’s a positive to let go of asbestos siding, no matter what the guidelines say. I will stick my neck out and be in the news saying I am going against the guidelines. Removing it will not impact the credibility of the home or the Historic District.”

Vernon was outnumbered as the other three members of the panel who were present voted to deny the request by Eldridge to remove and replace the siding with Hardi Plank.

“This house has had asbestos siding for as long as I can remember,” said board member Sallie Gillespie.

She said because a detached garage at the rear of the property has lap wood siding — now covered by other siding — she feels the house itself once had lap wood siding.

“We are charged with preserving the character of the Historic District. The guidelines say if the original material is still available you must use that. We must keep the houses as pure as we can,” she said.

Gillespie made a motion to deny the request for Hardi Plank. Her motion said Eldridge must leave the asbestos siding as it is or replace it with a lap wood siding.

Her motion was approved 3-1 with only Vernon voting against.

Eldridge said Tuesday he is undecided if he will appeal. If he does it would mean taking the matter to circuit court.

By Scott Harper

sharper@gtowntimes.com