Loudoun's Historic District Review Committee has again denied a petition to renovate the Simms House in Waterford, paving the way for the owners of the historical home to appeal the decision to the Board of Supervisors.
The ongoing controversy drew more than a dozen local residents opposed to the project to Monday's committee meeting. Several spoke against the plans for an approximately 2,000-foot addition and two-car garage on the one-quarter-acre lot at 40153 Janney St. They said the size -- or "massing" -- of the proposed addition would engulf the 1,350-foot structure owned by Paul and Milari Madison, who live about a mile outside the village.
The Simms house, which is believed to have been built in 1911, was occupied for more than half a century by Lizzie Simms and her family. She was an assistant teacher at the nearby Second Street School for black children. She raised her son in the home and took in other children in need. The house has never had electricity, indoor plumbing or a heating system. Because of a previous unfinished renovation, parts of the house have been exposed to the elements for about three years.
The Madisons' original plan was denied by the committee and then on appeal to the supervisors in December, and the committee has deferred a decision on variations of the new plan several times this year. Paul Madison, who did not attend Monday's meeting, has said that the proposed rehabilitation is well within Waterford's historic guidelines and gives the addition a lower roofline than the old plan, ensuring that it remains subordinate to the original structure.
"You can walk around Waterford and see phenomenal extensions," said Madison, a lawyer who bought the house last year. "I don't begrudge the owners of those homes, but it really smacks of unfairness."
Residents expressed concerns that the renovated house would ruin the unique character of Waterford, which has been designated a national historic landmark by the National Park Service.
"If everyone did it here, we would lose the integrity of the original structures," said Margaret Good, interim executive director of the Waterford Foundation, which promotes preservation in the historic district.
The previous owners of the house had been granted approval for a substantially smaller addition, on which the Madisons could legally begin construction. But the Madisons say that plan, which had been designed for two residents, would not suit their four-member family.
Madison said the months-long delay has stalled his family's appeal and allowed the house to deteriorate further. He called the repeated deferrals a tactic to keep the project in perpetual limbo.
"We have a big question mark in our minds whether it's even worth trying to save now," said Madison, who also has applied for a demolition permit. "It's just some flooring and some framing, and it's not in good shape," he said.
Last fall, the county's zoning appeals board rejected the Madisons' request to tear down the house, and the matter is now pending before the Loudoun County Circuit Court.
Before Monday's meeting, Madison submitted a letter to the committee asking it to approve or deny the plans rather than delaying again. The vote to reject the proposal was 3 to 1.
"The changes are nominal," committee member Mary Dudley said, referring to the differences between the plan considered Monday and earlier versions. "There is no desire to heed or listen to our suggestions." Another member, Mathew Custer, said the latest drawings have several internal inconsistencies, such as a brick chimney whose exact position varied among the renderings of the house at different angles.
Because the main renovation plan was turned down, a separate proposal for the garage was not considered.
"It could be very cute if someone sympathetic to historic preservation fixed it up," said Bob Thompson, 57, who lives nearby on Janney Street.