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Building owners fault Platteville Historic Preservation Commission
HPC, historic district ‘little or no benefit to us’
Spa at BarberShop Rock
The second floor of The Spa at BarberShop Rock in Platteville will be a speakeasy-style pub. The Historic Preservation Commission denied approval of changing the dormer windows on the top floor.

PLATTEVILLE — Anyone who attended the June 25 Platteville Common Council meeting agenda item of a Historic Preservation Commission appeal may have stopped paying attention after council president pro tem Eileen Nickels said, “We have received notice from the individuals … that they are withdrawing their appeal.”

The withdrawal of the appeal did not stop the applicants from stating their opinion on the commission or their project.

Jeff and Lisa Haas are in the process of turning the second floor of The Spa Boutique at BarberShop Rock at 130 Market St., a building on state and national historic registries, into a speakeasy-style pub.

The Haases sought to change the dormer window on the top of the south side, the front side, of the building, to have it look like other windows in the building. The commission denied their request May 30 on the grounds that the original Palladian windows are one of the elements that makes the building historic, according to city documents.

The Haases wrote in an email to the city that they decided against appealing because “it already has cost us considerable time, effort and money to just present items to the HPC. Our project needs to move forward and we are past the point where we can wait for those decisions.

“At this point we struggle to see any positive in our property being within the historic district. With the power that the HPC is able to wield in holding up projects, it is no wonder that many property owners make changes and if attention is drawn to it bring it to the commission for post approval. Therefore all we have seen of the HPC and the historical district is the negative aspect, with little or no benefit to us.”

The Haases, who also own BarberShop Rock at 250 W. Main St., wrote the issue “has definitely helped us realize that we will resist the urge to purchase any other buildings in Platteville's Historic District. … Property values can not increase unless the owners in those properties are allowed to grow and attract new business.”

The state Department of Safety and Professional Services required that fire-rated windows be placed on the east side of the building because of the short distance to the building next door to the Haas’ building, as well as moving stairs to the second floor on the north side, the back side, of the building.

 “It seems that some people forget that there are other laws and codes that trump Historic Preservation,” wrote the Haases. “Fire rated glass block was the only way we could comply with the code regulations and allow a pleasant appearance inside and out. With our initial project (lower level) we tried to negotiate with the state inspectors, however, when it came to fire protection, there was very little movement. … We now are in a position where several windows are glass block and the exterior look has changed, as the use has changed. 

“People looking at what we are doing need to look at the project as a whole not just one component. Right now we are in need of replacing the windows in the front dormer, however, we want to do something that will fit the changes that the building has already had to go through and all us to have limited maintenance while also assisting in energy efficiency.”

The Haases’ email said their appeal was “a statement on our rights as property owners and business owners in the City of Platteville. Nothing that we are doing will be against commercial building code. On the contrary this project will be correcting past mistakes of prior architects and inspectors. The entire project will be a representation of quality and taste found in both of our businesses.”

The Haases were also critical of the commission, writing that “Too often when attending these meetings we here members speak of guidelines and standards as if we should know this just from owning a building in this district. There is very little guidance or education taking place on what is acceptable, with much left up to the interpretation of individual members regarding what is visually pleasing or acceptable. Because of this we are concerned that others will not be held to the same standard or that we will improve our property only to have others shy away from improvement or maintenance because of the difficulty of going through the preservation commission red tape.”