ORLEANS — To the poet Goethe, architecture was “frozen music.” To some members of the architectural review committee, plans to modernize the look of an office building on South Orleans Road are out of tune with the community’s design guidelines.
According to draft minutes of the committee’s Nov. 14 meeting, the proposal by Del Mar Vacations, Inc., for 24 South Orleans Rd. was withdrawn by Matt Cole of Cape Associates, the project’s general contractor, after several members expressed concerns. An unusual special meeting of the committee with the project the sole item on the agenda is scheduled for tonight (Dec. 5) at 6:30 p.m. Chairman Joy Cuming, who did not attend the Nov. 14 meeting, had not returned an email request for comment by press time.
Draft minutes for the Oct. 24 committee meeting report that Del Mar owner Luke Chapman presented “a preliminary application for new roof, siding, decking areas, and to re-skin building.” The committee asked that “color samples of concrete siding, type of concrete, pictures of lighting fixtures, samples of signage, type of decking materials, and specification sheet and type of windows” be submitted for a second hearing for approval. No vote was taken.
No vote was taken at the Nov. 14 meeting either, but the draft minutes indicate a long list of concerns. “Objections were raised that the proposed building will look like a large dark black box and its color is not compatible with its environment,” the draft minutes report. “Other objections raised: the building will not fit in with a New England maritime village, and the building is big and its size gets emphasized.
“Questions were raised regarding choice of building materials, siding materials, and the black roof. There were recommendations made to build a contemporary style building that does not look so urban with traditional windows that are compatible with the Cape Cod style and to examine the 14 building design guidelines and zoning Chapter 164 bylaws.”
The existing traditional-looking building is just past Baskin’s Ace Hardware and of similar appearance. The location is not far from the French Cable Museum, one end of what historical commission chairman Ron Petersen has called “an oasis of old Orleans” that extends to Academy Place.
“All we’re doing is siding, windows, and roofing. It’s a pretty simple little project,” Chapman said in an interview this week. “The windows don’t work, the siding is falling off. We’re doing our citizens’ duty to beautify the property we own.”
Chapman said he went around town this week taking pictures of buildings with design elements similar to those in the renovation. “The pants factory has a large window,” he said. “There are 20 buildings in town that don’t have corner boards. Are we doing this in a cohesive and beautiful way? Absolutely… I’m not going to apologize for having something beautiful designed that will enhance Orleans… We have a beautiful design that’s consistent with modern Cape architecture.”
The 3D rendering of the renovated building “is not exactly how it will look,” Chapman said. “The color is a little bit dark. It’s more of a navy blue than a black.” In the end, he said, “I think we’re trying to stay consistent and in spirit with the town of Orleans… I hope it’s viewed as a positive. I don’t want to spend money to have something viewed as negative.”
Chapman said the committee “moved the goal posts” between the Oct. 24 and Nov. 14 meetings, which prompted him to inform Town Administrator John Kelly and Director of Planning and Community Development George Meservey that “people aren’t following the process.”
At the October meeting, according to Chapman, “people like Joy (Cuming) and Bernadette (MacLeod) were over-the-moon pleased with how pretty the end result was gonna be.” He said the consensus of the board at that time was 4-1 to approve the project, but no vote was taken pending submission and review of building material samples. Chapman did not attend the November meeting, but said he learned that “two new members were at the meeting who didn’t recuse themselves even though those meetings aren’t videotaped and they couldn’t have seen the prior meeting. Under open meeting laws, you have to be at a prior meeting to have an opinion on the case or have seen the video of it. In this case, and I’m not a legal person, the town was out of process.”
According to draft minutes of both meetings, Cuming, Nancy Jorgensen, MacLeod, Page McMahan, and Stephen Salley attended on Oct. 24 and Douglas Fromm, Jorgensen, McMahan, Debra Oakes, and Salley attended on Nov. 14.
“My hope is we can all move on like meeting number two never occurred,” said Chapman. “They gave a preliminary indication of 4-1 against versus 4-1 previously (in support). It was very confusing. The town process needs to get buttoned up.”
Although his company “has other towns we could choose to invest our money in,” Chapman said, “we created 25 year-round jobs here. I have every interest in continuing to do so.”
He said that his business does not hurt year-round housing. “All our clients use their houses as vacation homes,” he said. “None of them would be in position to rent their houses year-round to somebody. There are homes that other rental managers manage that are investment homes and never used by the owner. That’s not Del Mar’s business model.”