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Board Rejects Plan for Covington Townhouse

Plans for a new townhouse in Covington's Historic Licking Riverside neighborhood were rejected by the city's urban design review board on Monday.

Attorney Todd McMurtry is looking to build a contemporary-style home on Sanford Street on a lot that sits behind his family's home on Garrard Street. Plans for the house were panned by neighbors who spoke out at a UDRB meeting in February when the issue was tabled for the purpose of gathering more details about the materials that would be used.

On Monday, the board voted 4-3 to reject the plans. McMurtry said that he would appeal.

"My goal is a very elegant townhome," said architect Andrew Piaskowy who designed the property. He argued that a contemporary-style home was appropriate for the neighborhood and was a better option than attempting to mimic the mostly Victorian Italianate architecture for which the neighborhood is famous. Piaskowy stated that his design, which includes a prominent window bays on two floors for maximum lighting and differs greatly from the 19th century surrounding style, offers a three-dimensional living and viewing experience that would be compromised by the board's demands.

The board was uncomfortable with, among other things, the placement of the windows and some of the materials to be used, such as stucco.

Neighbors expressed similar concerns. "It gives a very different look than the rest of the homes in the neighborhood," said Lisa Sauer, who has spoken previously at Covington City Hall as a representative from Progress With Preservation. She lives on Second Street near an example of infill housing in the historic neighborhood, a series of townhomes abutting the Licking River on Shelby Street. She also cited the Burton Row townhomes on Garrard Street as an example of successful infill.

Conversely, Piaskowy cited both of those development as being out of compliance with the city's design regulations. The Shelby Street homes are built at an angle and Burton Row expanded its windows in a non-historic manner, he said.

The board voted twice on Monday. The first vote was to approve the plans, but it failed 4-3. A second vote to disapprove the plans was adopted by the same margin.

McMurtry, after telling the board that he would appeal to the city commission, which is the next step in the process, argued that architect Jim Guthrie, who voted against the project, should have recused himself from the proceedings as he is a competitor of Piaskowy. The UDRB is set up to include a professional architect. 
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
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