Proposed house for Purdue student tests historic group

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Developer Michael Plonski always hoped his son Lance Plonski would decide to attend Purdue University, his alma mater.

Plonski even promised to build his son a house in West Lafayette if he chose to take his dad up on the offer.

This fall, Plonski's dream will come true.

"I have known I could build on the lot that I have owned at 206 W. Stadium (Ave.) for almost 30 years but did not have a reason to until now," Plonski said via email.

Lance Plonski this fall will begin studying mechanical engineering technology at the West Lafayette research institution. He will help design the house where he will live.

"First and foremost, I view the house construction ... as an investment in my son," Plonski said, adding that his son will use the skills that he learns in his major to design the home.

But there's a snag in Michael Plonski's plans. The plot of land is part of New Chauncey Neighborhood, which is a local historic district. The location means stricter guidelines and oversight by the West Lafayette Historic Preservation Commission, which was established in 2013.

Plonski's house will be the commission's first test.

Council member Peter Bunder alerted the commission to the development. If he hadn't, Bunder said commission members would not have known about the project.

"That didn't happen until I started making some emails and some phone calls," Bunder said. "That (procedure) has to work better, and that's the first problem."

Right now, when developers apply for a building permit, there is a box to check if the property falls within a historic district, said Chandler Poole, a city staff member to the commission.

In this case, Plonski wasn't aware the lot was in a historic district, and so he did not check the box. Bunder said the main problem is a lack of awareness that the regulatory body exists.

"You would think by this time there would be some sort of procedure that would get significant renovation referred to (the commission)," Bunder said. "It can't do (its job) if it doesn't know this is happening."

Poole said the commission would have an emergency meeting to discuss what to do about the project. At the meeting, Plonski will submit building plans that include exterior materials and stylistic choices, among other things. The commission will then offer him guidance before submitting a "certificate of appropriateness" that Plonski must include with the agreed-upon plan.

Poole said the purpose of the process is to maintain the historical integrity of the neighborhood without hindering development and to encourage developers to "embrace the historical nature" of New Chauncey.

Currently the commission is notified only during situations of construction, demolition or relocation of building structures. In 2016, Poole said, those duties will expand to include lesser style choices on all the homes, including additions, window choices or exterior designs. The commission will not have input on any interior home decisions.

"(The commission) is not supposed to be the style police," Poole said. "It's supposed to be a resource."

Plonski said he's grateful the commission will take the time to review his project as soon as possible.

"I look forward to a speedy resolution of this issue," he said, "as I do not want my son living on the street when school starts."


Source: Journal & Courier,


Information from: Journal and Courier,

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