10/7/23 - Masonry Buildings

Who doesn't love a good Masonry Building? I know I do. I mean, look at these guys!

So what's the catch? Where is this going? I'm glad you asked! At Table 5-2: Commercial and Mixed Use Districts Design Standards, the new code expressly prohibits covering masonry buildings that face a street, the waterfront, or a park with a new material. It then goes on to list vinyl siding, EIFS, and stucco as examples. Hard to argue with that.

I'm going to now go on a slight tangent, here, sorry. At 5.4.C.1, the code expressly prohibits the use of plain concrete block and at 5.4.C.3 the use of exposed aggregate (rough finish) concrete panels on facades that face the street. Fun story, buildings with those façade materials are also masonry buildings which now are prohibited from being covered with a new siding material. Indeed, here are some other masonry buildings around town...

And I know what you're thinking, "That's what variances are for in the first place!" Except once you have to get a variance , all bets are off as to how that process goes. It should be noted that recently a neighborhood showed up at ZBA hearings to try and stop Starbucks (an allowed use) from opening over their sign variances. As a point of zoning theory, we should not be making explicitly desired outcomes dependent on receiving variances.

Wrapping this up, the code needs a little more nuance in its protection of masonry buildings. Buildings already treated in unpermitted materials should be allowed to have them covered or replaced of-right with materials that are legally allowed in the district (this would continue to prohibit the use of vinyl siding on mixed-use buildings or EIFS below 8'). Alternately, the code could, instead of referencing the overly broad category of masonry buildings, just prohibit the application of new façade treatments over brick, limestone, and terra cotta. My concern with the latter wording is that a building has some unlisted, but fantastic masonry exterior and squeaks through getting covered.