A Vote to Preserve

I agree with fellow historic preservation commissioner Nuray Anahtar that the June 9 decision regarding the replacement of lead-painted windows in a historic Takoma Park home was difficult ["A Clash Between Protect, Preserve," Extra, July 29]. As one of the commissioners voting in the majority against the property owner's proposal, I stand by my vote.

The Historic Preservation Commission is charged to protect Montgomery County's irreplaceable historic properties. Decisions by the commission must be based on standards set by the Department of the Interior and the Montgomery County Code, not on arbitrary emotional considerations. These standards emphasize the retention of original building parts such as windows, siding and roofing materials.

Had a compelling case been made for an imminent threat to the children living in the home, I would not have hesitated in voting to permit removal of all of the windows in the home. As noted in the article, the children -- who have lived in the home from birth -- have a blood lead level of less than 2.5 micrograms per deciliter.

What the article did not present is that this is a very low level and does not constitute lead poisoning. According to the National Institutes of Health Web site: "Most also agree that adults and children with blood concentrations of less than 10 micrograms/dL [0.48 micromol/L] are not lead poisoned, and further testing is not necessary unless they are exposed again. The Centers for Disease Control has defined an elevated blood lead level as greater than 10 micrograms/dL [0.48 micromol/L] for children under the age of 6 years."

Instead, the homeowners urged the commission to consider speculative standards for lead contamination. As the Supreme Court ruled in the 1983 environmental case Metropolitan Edison Co. v. People Against Nuclear Energy, the perceived risk from something in the environment -- such as speculative lead contamination levels -- is not a suitable standard for public-policy decision-making.

The commission and its staff are committed to continuing to work with the property owners in this case to find a win-win solution and have provided the owners with information on at least four contractors who can perform lead abatement on the windows in question (to certified standards set by the state of Maryland) while still retaining and renovating the existing windows. Hopefully, a good solution will be achieved.

David S. Rotenstein


Montgomery County Historic

Preservation Commission

Silver Spring