BAR, church spar over Town’s codes, siding

Sandy Level Baptist Church

BLYTHEWOOD – Attorney Jamie Walters, representing Sandy Level Baptist Church, appeared before the Town’s Board of Architectural Review (BAR) for the second time in as many months to request a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) that would allow the church to replace the existing vinyl siding on the church’s sanctuary building with like vinyl siding as well as a certain style of replacement windows.

The sanctuary of the church has a historical designation in the town, and the BAR had previously deferred the request as they tried to convince Walters to bring the sanctuary back to its original state by painting it instead of replacing the vinyl siding which was not original to the sanctuary.

Walters has argued that if the church painted the sanctuary, it would have to be repainted about ever six or seven years, something he says the church cannot afford.

At Walters’s second appearance before the BAR on Jan. 17, he opened his address by stating that the minutes for the previous meeting misstated what the Board had previously approved for replacement windows for the church.

“[According to the minutes, the windows] you approved were not what we asked to be approved,” Walters said, noting also that he believed the church’s request to the board was being considered wrongly under Sec. 152.182 A4 (civic organizations) of the town’s regulations instead of under Sec. 152.185 2D (religious organizations) which does not require simulated windows which would cost 10% – 15% more.”

Walters also requested the church be allowed to use single lap siding versus double lap siding which, he said, would drive up the cost.

“Any change like that would have to come back to the BAR,” Board Chairman Jim McLean said.

“The struggle we have,” McLean said, “is that Sandy Level is 107 years old and probably one of the top historical buildings in the county. We have a duty to make sure that the historical aspects of that building are not in any way destroyed.”

He said the board wanted to protect the historic nature of the building.

“That takes us up to the original sanctuary and what to do as far as taking the siding off so we can understand the condition of the original siding,” McLean said. “I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that.”

“Our thoughts are that we aren’t going to do it,” Walters said. “The problem is, you’re asking us to go remove all the vinyl siding on the sanctuary and then you’re going to say if we can or can’t put it back. Once we remove it, we no longer have a choice. What you all decide is what we have to do, and it is not financially feasible for us to paint this building …in seven years and 14 years and 21 years.”

Walters explained that the church building needed other expensive repairs and that it could not afford to do what the board asked.

“We no longer have electricity in three rooms, and another room was flooded during the Dec. 24 weather. Our parking lot is collapsing. We have to get this behind us. We can’t be looking at fixing it again in six to seven years,” Walters said.

“Vinyl is not approved,” McLean said. “I don’t think, this board will ever give permission to put vinyl siding on the main sanctuary.”

“Like you granted it last year?” Walters said.

“Because we were under the impression you were doing repair work,” McLean said.

“Our application was to replace the vinyl,” Walters said.

“You’re absolutely correct,” McLean conceded. “We made an error …We’re not trying to be adversarial, but we are trying to protect the historical aspects of Sandy Level. I’m emotionally tied to Sandy Level just like most people in the town are.”

“I can say with high degree of confidence. The church will never vote to paint this building,” Walters said. “It’s a $300,000 difference over 30 years.”

While McLean suggested the church could get grants to paint the building, Walters said the church could not commit today for 30 years when they don’t know where those funds are going to come from.

“Our focus is not that building,” Walters said. “We are here to bring people to God. If you’re telling me that if we spend a half million on that building that it will bring people in the door and get them saved, then sign us up. We would all like to see that building painted and looking like it did many years ago, but we can’t afford it. That’s where we are.”

The board voted unanimously to defer the meeting a second time to seek the advice of a professional consultant in regard to the actual condition of the original siding on the sanctuary.

Walters reminded the BAR members that the church has a deadline of June 1 to finish the window project or it will lose the Richland County grant it received to pay for the windows.

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