Demolition by Reckless Policy

March 15, 2013 11 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

It took years to do it, but Springfield finally stopped the wholesale demolition of historic properties. It has been 1 year, 4 months and 25 days without losing a house to a bulldozer. And so the 100 or so condemned structures in the neighborhood stood a chance of surviving -- even given the economic housing crisis -- at least until last night.

Demolition by reckless policy.

There is a push to have historic houses replace the original metal shingle roofs with the same product.  A great idea in theory.  Who doesn't love the fabulous stamped roofs which still remain in the neighborhood?  But years ago, the neighborhood, along with the planning department, determined that metal standing seam or 5 v crimp roofs would be an adequate replacement, replicating at least the material.  This determination was made given the fact that metal shingles were difficult to come by and expensive.  (Which is still true today)  And so metal panel roofing was the norm for roof replacement for decades.

At last night's HPC administrative change subcommittee, SPAR requested to have the process change.  Currrently, should you need to replace your roof, you simply go to the historic planning department and put in a COA request.  If you are going from a metal roof (of any design) to a metal standing seam or 5 v crimp roof, it will just be signed off by the planner.  There is no cost associated with this.  In fact, you can do all of this by email.

Commonly used standing seam roof.

The requested change will require this same COA application to go before the commissioners.  The cost for a hearing at the HPC is $300.  Additionally, the applicant will need to present his case before the commissioners -- justification for not using the metal shingles instead of the (currently used) metal standing seam or 5 v crimp.

One type of metal shingle roof. Courtesy of

The commissioners have a proven track record of being unconcerned about cost differences in material and labor.  Lately, they have ruled that economic hardship is irrelevant to preservation in several cases.  The likelihood that they will approve (that which is currently approved) appears, frighteningly, unlikely.

The problem?

The currently allowed metal standing seam panels are on average $1.30 - $1.50 a square foot for materials .  The proposed metal shingles run from $2.80 to $6.00 a square foot for materials.  Add to this fact that metal shingles are 4 times as labor intensive to install than what we have been used to and you have a very expensive roof.

Which means that a $10,000 roof could soon cost $25,000. or more.

So here we stand with 100 or so condemned houses, most needing roofs.  

The realtors will now have a tougher time helping buyers get 203k loans for the projects.  And the houses will sit empty with rain running down the burled wood and what little plaster remains.

Perhaps this goes against the grain of some, but we have a Hierarchy of Preservation Needs.  Springfield is in the trenches trying to save tens of dozens of at-risk houses.  We must ENCOURAGE preservation, bring buyers into the neighborhood to fix up houses.  We must HELP this process along, not stifle it.

Demolition by Reckless Policy.  It is as destructive as a bulldozer.

Save the houses.  Every one of them.

Editorial by Gloria Devall