Comstock gets new historic commissioners

Four new members may bring a sense of tranquility to the nine-member Comstock Historic District Commission.

The commission in the past year has faced public criticism for not consistently enforcing its regulations regarding historic architecture within the district.

These criticisms were laced with hints that Virginia City was favored over Dayton.

At the root of the unrest were questions regarding Mia's Swiss Restaurant in Dayton. Owners Max and Mia Kuerzi a year ago painted over the Odeon Hall sign and replaced it with a Mia's sign.

This triggered an uproar among residents because the Kuerzis did not seek approval from the commission before making changes to their building. The commission ordered the Kuerzis to restore the Odeon Hall sign but the Kuerzis instead chose to test the legal system.

Mia's sits within the Comstock Historic District, where special rules apply to buildings to maintain a historic quality. Visual changes made to historic buildings, including adding or taking away signs, must be approved by the nine-member commission.

Established in 1969, the district includes Virginia City, Silver City, Gold Hill, parts of Dayton and Sutro.

The Mia's controversy heightened commission awareness that rules only work if everybody knows them and if they are enforced consistently. Commissioners have acknowledged that property owners need to be better informed about the district's sign regulations.

"We want to strive to be more consistent," Commissioner Bob Milz said. "It's a breath of fresh air that we have this change."

Chairwoman Andria Daley-Taylor of Virginia City, State Historic Preservation Officer Ron James, Ron Reno of Silver City and architect John Copoulos of Carson City stepped off the commission June 30 when their three-year terms expired.

Daley-Taylor and James, both leading forces on the historic commission for numerous years, were the more vocal commissioners. Dayton residents felt slighted by Daley-Taylor's way of apparently favoring Virginia City and Comstock observers questioned the consistency of James' actions.

Virginia City did have more representatives on the commission until the new commissioners were appointed. Both communities now have two commissioners, including one from each county commission.

"This is a plus," said Milz, the Lyon County Commission representative on the commission. "I requested we have an equal amount of people from Lyon as from Storey."

The commission also has specific positions for architects and the State Historic Preservation Office.

The new SHPO representative is architectural historian Rebecca Ossa. Retired architect Richard Knapp of Reno joined the commission, as did Kathryn Ataman of Silver City and Barbara Peck of Dayton.

"Let's work together as a group," said Peck, who just finished a term on the Dayton Regional Advisory Council. "I would like to see additional preservation projects going on. I'd like to see more interaction with the Dayton Historical Society and business owners."

Storey County Commission Chairman Chuck Haynes took over duties as chairman of the Comstock Historic Commission. Still serving on the commission are Milz, Don McBride of Virginia City, architect Tim Sweeney of Reno and Joe Page of Virginia City.


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