The old entry door on the home, which Mendenhall acquired in 2011, was falling apart and unsafe, especially since there was home nearby that was broken into in late last year, Mendenhall said.
“A child could have kicked their way through my door,” he said. “I had a door that’s falling apart — we put the door in, because what was I supposed to do? My wife is half crippled and I’m blind.”
Rachel Bankowitz, Dayton’s historic preservation officer, said she denied the Mendenhalls’ request to replace the front door because it is not historically accurate for the time period of the house.
Oregon District workers, business owners and patrons have posted angry messages on Facebook and social media that criticize the city’s actions. A petition has been signed by more than 1,000 people in support of allowing Mendenhall to keep the door and dropping the charges against him, supporters say.
"Let's put an end to stupidity like this and help out the Dayton underdogs that do so much good for our community," wrote Heart Mercantile in a post.
Mendenhall said, “I believe in the people in our community and in our neighborhood and I believe in our elected officials, and let’s get sanity back into the discussion about whether a blind guy and a half-crippled woman can have a door in December.”
Bankowitz said the door does not “conform” to the architectural guidelines and does not reflect the style of the old door. She said the owners appealed the case to the Landmark Commission but could have had another opportunity to make their case.
“Unfortunately for the owners, they did not come to the Landmark Commission meeting to hear about why the door was inappropriate, or discuss the next steps,” Bankowitz said. “They could have appealed the boards’ decision to the Board of Zoning Appeals, but they have long since missed the deadline.”
In September, Bob and Lisa Mendenhalls’ request for a major certificate of appropriateness to replace their front door went before the Landmark Commission.
A couple of residents of the Oregon District sent letters asking the commission to deny the request, saying the front door is inappropriate for a historic house and the historic district.
City staff recommended denial of the request because the new door looks “too suburban.” The new door is a signet cherry fiberglass entry door with Esmond decorative glass.
The commission rejected the request.
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Mendenhall said the new door “checked all of the boxes” laid out in the historic guidelines. He said he was never given a clear and definitive answer why the Landmark Commission voted against his request.
In December, Mendenhall had the new door installed. He said he was worried about safety and crime in his neighborhood.
Not long after, Mendenhall was cited for not obtaining a certificate of appropriateness before installing the new entrance.
Mendenhall paid a $179 fine and the case was closed. He said he assumed that would be the end of the matter, and he got rid of the old door.
But earlier this year, he was cited for not displaying a certificate of appropriateness before beginning construction on the exterior of the home, which is in Dayton’s oldest neighborhood.
Mendenhall said he was dismayed to learn he now faces potential jail time. He said a city inspector told him he technically could be cited every day until the violation is fixed.
Mendenhall said he is a big proponent of the city of Dayton, but this experience has been perplexing and disappointing.
“My god, it’s a door — a door — and it’s a lot better than the door that was here,” he said.
Bankowitz said no certificate of appropriateness was issued to replace the door, and yet the Mendenhalls went ahead and changed it out anyway. The matter is now in the hands of municipal court, she said.
The Landmark Commission is appointed by the city commission, and the city cannot reverse the commission’s decision, officials said.
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