LaGrange considering UDO change to allow vinyl siding for older homes

Published 9:00 am Saturday, July 15, 2023

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A change may soon come where homeowners will be allowed to once again use vinyl siding on existing homes.

The LaGrange City Council is considering changing its Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) to allow for vinyl siding on existing homes in some zoning designations. Discussion on the proposed change comes after it was discovered that vinyl siding had been used in violation of the UDO during the recent renovation of a home.

City Planner Mark Kostial said that the issue was discovered after Grover Sims obtained an electrical reconnect permit on June 27 because the power had been off at a Revis Street residence he owns for more than six months. When inspectors went to the location the next day, they determined that Sims had exceeded the scope of the permit he had applied for by installing vinyl siding on the home.

“The permit was only for electrical reconnect. Above and beyond the vinyl siding installation, there’s also evidence that additional unpermitted work had taken place on the property,” Kostial said.

Kostial said that the current UDO only allows vinyl siding on soffits, gables, eves and around window trim. Vinyl is also allowed to replace existing vinyl that was unintentionally damaged because of fire or other natural causes.

“Had Mr. Sims indicated to us by applying for a permit that it was his intent to install vinyl, we could have let him know that that was prohibited,” Kostial said. “Outside of a text amendment, it would have to be removed.”

Councilman Leon Childs advised that Sims had inherited the house and was trying to make it presentable.

“We must understand that this is a house that looked in disarray,” Mayor Willie Edmondson said.  “If he had not done anything, the house would have remained an eyesore in the community.”

Councilman Jim Arrington said he had concerns with this exact issue when the UDO was first approved.

“My concerns were this instance right here, where somebody is trying to frame a house up to the higher quality of standards to make it look better. I asked the same question about why do we have to outlaw vinyl siding altogether?” Arrington said, noting at the time they decided to deal with it on a case-by-case basis.

Arrington indicated that he would support the UDO being changed to allow vinyl siding to be used to renovate existing houses — especially blighted ones.

“I do not recommend it for new construction. I will never be for putting vinyl siding on new construction in the UDO,” he said.

In anticipation of the request, Kostial prepared recommendations for a text amendment to the UDO that would allow vinyl siding for renovating houses.

“The use of vinyl siding would still be prohibited for new construction. That would be our recommendation. However, single-family detached homes, two-family dwellings and attached homes would be permitted to add vinyl siding as part of an existing residence. However, we would only allow that within our [Traditional Neighborhood Residential] TN-R zoning district, which is where all of our mill villages are. These are smaller lots and would address this very issue and future issues,” Kostial said.

Sims spoke to the council during their evening meeting asking for forgiveness and saying the vinyl siding had only been installed out of ignorance of the law. He said the house had been fixed up to allow a student to stay there.

“I have a young lady trying to go to West Georgia Tech. She needed a place to stay. So, I told her if you fix it up, you can stay there for a year. You won’t have to pay anything if you fix it up,” Sims said, indicating that he agreed to pay for the materials.

Sims said he spent quite a bit of money to renovate the home, which he is still repaying.

“I’m not looking to change anything. I’m not asking for any type of justice … I’m asking for some mercy, and I need some mercy right now,” Sims said, explaining that he cannot afford to remove the vinyl siding, which he is still paying for.

Edmondson explained to Sims that the issue had been discussed at the morning work session and city staff is working on changing the ordinance so that vinyl siding can be used to renovate existing homes. In the meantime, the currently forbidden siding on Sims’ house can remain, he said.