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Regulations keep building in North Side district looking old

| Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010, 12:00 p.m.

The half-painted facade, with strips of year-old painters tape fluttering from second- and third-story windows, looms over the blue-and-white panels and a partially collapsed sign of Lindos Restaurant on the North Side's Western Avenue.

What started in the summer of 2009 as a simple paint job has dragged out into more than a year of wrangling among Lindos owners Muhammad and Rubina Waheed, the city's Historic Review Commission and an Allegheny West community group that wants to preserve the neighborhood's historic looks.

When the Waheeds began painting Lindos -- in a shade of beige similar to a house across the street -- they planned to spend about $5,000. Now, because of expanded plans and historic preservation rules requiring that changes be in line with the building's original appearance, it could cost them as much as $50,000 -- 40 percent of which could be reimbursed through the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

The paint probably has to go, too.

The Historic Review Commission is scheduled to review their plans Wednesday.

"I don't know what's going on with this," said Rubina Waheed, a Pakistani immigrant who bought the building when she and her husband moved to Pittsburgh four years ago. She said the rules are frustrating and convoluted, and she questioned why her building can't just get a fresh coat of paint like the one across the street.

Property owners in Allegheny West, one of Pittsburgh's 12 historic districts, must adhere to 21 pages of special Historic Review Commission regulations. The rules require that "unpainted brick or stone should be left unpainted, while painted masonry can be cleaned or repainted."

"Everybody that buys in that neighborhood should be informed" of the guidelines before they sign a sales agreement, said Tim Zinn, incoming president of the Allegheny West Civic Council, a neighborhood group that helps organize and monitor development. The street has undergone about $2 million in renovation during the past several years, Zinn said. He said he hand-delivered the rules to the Waheeds.

Some neighbors expressed frustration at the yearlong stalemate and criticized city government and the civic council for being too burdensome.

Casey Phillips, owner of Phillips Family Chiropractic and Wellness Center across the street from Lindos, said it's "outrageous" that the Waheeds can't paint their building, especially since the shoddy-looking facade could turn away customers.

"People should be able to conduct business reasonably without interference," Phillips said.

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