Energy Efficiency Vs. History

City Council reverses preservation board's decision on man's energy-efficient windows

By Randy McIlwain
|  Wednesday, Jul 28, 2010  |  Updated 10:45 AM CDT
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A McKinney homeowner found out making renovations so that the windows don't whistle on historic homes isn't as easy as a trip to the hardware store.

Randy McIlwain, NBCDFW.com

A McKinney homeowner found out making renovations so that the windows don't whistle on historic homes isn't as easy as a trip to the hardware store.

A McKinney homeowner is learning that making renovations to his historic home is more difficult than just making a trip to the hardware store.

Eric Ciskowski's 1920s-style home off Parker Street is his first rebuilding project. The homeowner, who is also working on his architect's license, is renovating almost the entire home.

He said McKinney's Historic Preservation Advisory Board doesn't care what the inside looks like, but changes to features such as windows are a different matter.

Ciskowski wanted to replace the original, wood-framed and leaky windows with energy-efficient ones.

"Right now, I kind of have to keep all my shades down inside so I (can) keep it nice and cool and dark inside, but just to keep the air in and the sun out," he said.

He also wanted to take advantage of a healthy tax rebate for adding energy-efficient windows and appliances.

Because the home is considered historic, Ciskowski needed the Historic Preservation Advisory Board's permission to buy new windows.

But the board denied his request because of concerns that the new windows would change the cosmetic character of the home and possibly devalue others in the historic neighborhood.

Ciskowski appealed the decision to the City Council, which overturned the board's decision.

"The issue is one of cost, and then there's a practicality issue," Mayor Brian Loughmiller said.

Several historic homes and buildings in the area have received approval for similar renovations in the past.

Loughmiller said fundamental concerns of cost and the character of buildings are at issue in such decisions.

"What kind of costs are we going to ask homeowners to bear when they're maintaining a historic home and they're still trying to make it look and feel authentic?" he said.

City leaders say McKinney should not be perceived as weak on historic preservation because it granted Ciskowski's request.

The city, which has a reputation as one of the fastest-growing cities in America, is built on its historic downtown square and surrounding neighborhoods.

Ciskowski said he is just happy to be able to move forward with his renovation plans.

"I had to argue that the window was not changing the appearance of the house," he said. "They're going to see a very well-kept, 1920s house that I'm hoping McKinney can be proud of."

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