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Roof causes concern


A roof removal project in the historic downtown Chestnut Street District raised the ire of Hays city commissioners at Thursday's work session.

Dave Gray and Blue Light LLC, owner of the live music venue Singers, 116 E. 12th, purchased the vacant building directly east of the establishment in hopes of removing the roof of the building and creating an outdoor area for patrons.

Due to the historic nature of the district, plans for removing the roof require approval by the State Historical Preservation Office. After review, the SHPO determined removing the roof would alter the historic character of the building.

However, prior to receiving SHPO's determination, a contractor was hired by the owner to remove the roof covering, which was in disrepair, from the building. While removing the covering, the roof trusses allegedly collapsed and the roof then was removed completely.

The issue came before city commissioners Thursday because the commission has the authority to allow the roof removal to be made permanent, should the governing body decide the change would not alter the building's historic significance.

Discussion of the roof became a bit testy when commissioners questioned Adam Comeau of Liberty Group, who represented Gray at the meeting about circumstances surrounding the fact the building's roof had been removed without the owner obtaining a permit.

"We checked with the city codes and planning office, and they told us that we didn't have to pull a permit to do demolition," Comeau said. "Our intention in the plan we submitted to the state was to remove the roof."

Commissioner Ron Mellick pointed out the building's owners had not waited until the SHPO's determination was returned prior to initiating the work.

Although Comeau conceded they had started the work prior to receiving the SHPO's letter, he said the project wasn't intended to be as extensive as it was. However, deterioration of the roof caused it to collapse and ultimately to require complete removal.

"The fact that the roof is not currently on the building should not be a consideration," City Attorney John Bird told commissioners, pointing out the commission's meeting memo stated if commissioners agree with SHPO, the building owner will be required to restore the roof to its original condition.

Commissioners, he said, should base their decision on whether the project meets the city's standards from a historical point of view.

At issue for Mellick and Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV was the idea property owners could alter or demolish historic structures without any permit from the city.

"They have a right, as a property owner, to come in and remove the roof, but they also have a duty to retain the roof until they have permission to have it permanently gone," Bird said. "So they remove the roof at their own risk.

"We don't give permits on demolition. We do give permits on improvement projects of different kinds, and that's where the problem is."

Commissioners will discuss a resolution to allow the change to the building at next week's meeting. In addition, City Manager Toby Dougherty said the issue of demolition of historic property will be researched by city staff and brought back for review at a later work session.

In other business, commissioners:

* Tabled discussion of the final plat for King's Gate Second Addition.

* Discussed remediation of the former city of Hays shooting range. With technical and design efforts now complete, city staff recommended the commission approve payment of $74,839 to Geotechnical Services for the city's share of the final remediation costs, a measure commissioners will vote on at their regular meeting next Thursday. Ellis County shares in the project, providing funds for the physical excavation and transport of the contaminated soil.

* Considered approving a contract with Wilson & Co. for inspection of the city's levee system. Commissioners expressed an interest in getting bids from another engineer, and will discuss the topic at a later work session.