In 2007, Nancy Crabill asked to have her house designated historic by the City of Coronado. Ten years later, that designation has come back to haunt her family as they try to fix up the long-neglected home.
In February, the city council voted to order Crabill to uninstall the modern sliding aluminum windows and to reinstall the old ones or pay to have new, historically accurate windows built and installed. The city fined her $400, but the estimated cost of putting in windows, removing them, and restoring them comes in at around $60,000.
Nancy Crabill doesn't know about that. At 98, she has severe dementia and lives with her daughter who takes care of her. Crabill's daughter, Carol Clark, has been overseeing the repairs to the home in the past year and a half, including a $16,000 roof, a bathroom remodel, and replacing the leaking windows. The family's plan is to rent the house for now.
"The casement windows were not secure," she explained. "We thought it would be better to have windows that would let people feel safe." But she ran afoul of past and current members of the Historic Resource Commission, who fought her down to the last window. Clark proposed to restore the street-facing windows and on both sides of the house but to leave the modern windows in the back of the house.
The windows included leaded glass in diamond patterns on casement windows and wood that had rotted so badly that the windows leaked water and cold air, said Clark. Crabill's neighbors include past historic commission members — who wrote letters that began the investigation.
Calling the replacement windows "ugly," Ann Parish Boston — a past member of the historic commission — wrote to city officials, saying one of her neighbors had reported the new windows to the city. "Those timeless, beautiful windows were really the beauty and the highlight of the front of the home," she wrote.
A member of the historic commission who met with or called all but one member of the city council on the matter said that Crabill's parents had built the house. "My grandmother owned the house next door," said commission member Susan Keith. "If you allow the appeal to go through, you are setting such a bad example — everyone else is going to do it."
But one past member, John O'Brien, says the city's order to undo and redo means enormous costs to Crabill's family — after they spent $20,000 to $30,000 for the new windows that will be removed.
"I don't think there was any intent to break the rules," O'Brien said. "When I was on the commission, we saw our role as helping people take care of historic homes. We didn't take the role of policing people."
It was the first time the city had a code enforcement on a historically designated property, mayor Richard Bailey noted. The Crabill family was given a year to get proper permits and complete the work.