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Board closes gate to PVC fencing

The Historical and Architectural Review Board rejected a proposal to replace a worn 7-foot-high cedar basket weave fence with a 6-foot-high PVC one at the Oct. 6 in-person, but live streamed, meeting.

Representing 415 High St., Fran Gotzon from Lehigh Valley Fence Co. was unable to score a certificate of appropriateness to install a textured wood grain PVC product manufactured by CertainTeed. Gotzon described the new material as being maintenance-free, with triple ribbed boards and a tongue and groove design. These are supported by steel-reinforced posts and come with a 30-year fade resistant warranty.

Gotzon cited the rise in prices and shortages of cedar and other natural wood products, brought on by the pandemic, as a reason to consider an alternate material. Although they were open to considering newer construction products, the commissioners were unanimously reluctant to approve the PVC fencing and proposed PVC gate.

Vice Chair Marsha Fritz found the 7-inch width of the boards out of scale with traditional 5-inch planks. Chairperson Beth Starbuck opined that the fence would “still look like plastic” in the future and not age like wood fencing. Gotzon quietly agreed, saying, “I like fences that actually grow old with me.”

The venerable residence is owned by Mary Louise Brion.

Kristin Illick found partial success with her window replacement proposal for the painted brick house she owns with Jeffrey Frank at 232 E. Wall St. The commissioners allowed for the replacement of the third floor vinyl windows with good quality aluminum-clad ones, but would only approve a COA for the restoration of the other windows that were original to the building and protecting them with storm windows.

Starbuck advised the applicant that the old growth wood windows were likely to outlast any new replacement windows. Historic officer Joseph Phillips confirmed that the costs to repair existing historic windows would be less expensive than replacing them.

Faring better than the previous two applicants, Bruce Campbell was awarded a COA to paint the exterior of the house at 14 W. Church St. and its 3-bay garage. Samples of colors with names like “Livingston,” “Swiss Coffee,” and “Deep Breath” were approved for the wood siding, trim, rails, doors, lower shutters, and porch lattice. Black was chosen for the upper shutters and fire escape.

The two-and-a-half story brick multi-family residential building is owned by Campbell Real Estate.

All decisions were unanimous.

The Historical and Architectural Review Board regularly meets the first Wednesday of every month to review all exterior changes proposed to buildings in the Bethlehem Historic District north of the Lehigh River. When a proposed project receives a certificate of appropriateness from the board, applicants must wait for city council to vote on it before proceeding.

Press photos by Ed Courrier Representing 415 High St., Fran Gotzon (right) from Lehigh Valley Fence Co. hands Mike Simonson (left) a catalog listing textured wood grain PVC products manufactured by CertainTeed, while other HARB members review material samples.
Kristin Illick fields questions from board members regarding her window replacement proposal for her home at 232 E. Wall St.
Bruce Campbell successfully presents his proposal to paint the exterior of the multi-family residence at 14 W. Church St.