Culpeper businessman paints a statement


Neighbors may be viewing Steve Corbin’s ‘happy house’ for awhile. Monies that had been targeted for its renovations may have to go toward removing windows from another.
Photo by Ian Chini


It was a few days before Easter and businessman Steve Corbin decided to color more than Easter eggs.

He sorted through his collection of various gallons of paint and had a contractor create a random checkerboard design on one of his properties on the corner of E. Piedmont Street and N. Commerce St.

Since then Corbin’s ‘happy house’ as he refers to it has folks stopping, taking pictures and asking questions, what’s with this house?

The story behind Corbin’s decision goes back to an April 11 town council meeting where council agreed to uphold a decision by the Architectural Review Board to deny an application that Corbin submitted. Toward the end of last year, someone notified the town that Corbin was in the process of installing windows at his property located at 314 S. East Street. He was told that he needed ARB approval to do that and quickly complied with an application for the 17 Amherst Plus brand vinyl windows.

Ultimately the ARB found those windows not in compliance with town ordinance, town council agreed and Corbin was left with windows paid for and already installed.

Sitting in his office, Corbin showed a photograph of the deteriorating previous windows and how he went to lengths to have the new windows match as closely as possible. “I didn’t get these at Lowes,” he said, “I had them custom ordered.”

Corbin asserts that the town’s Architectural Review Board has gotten out of control and is mismanaged.

When their decision was made to deny his application, he was out of town and not able to speak. While they had a quorum the final vote to disapprove was done by three members: Chris Hamilton, Michael Lysczek and Kimberly Trickett.

“Why should three people hold so much power over property owners,” asks Corbin, “particularly when there are others in the historic district that have been allowed to have vinyl windows.”

Their decision to deny his application flies in his face. Since the town’s decision to uphold the ARB decision, Corbin has walked a good portion of the town’s historic district noting more than 60 homes that have vinyl windows including, according to Corbin, the chairman of the ARB Chris Hamilton and a town councilman Bobby Ryan as well as local churches, law offices and other businessmen.

‘What is fair for one should be fair for all,” said Corbin who believes that he has been singled out.

“I believe that I get along with all of the town staff,” said Corbin who had particular praise for Director of Planning Charles Rapp. “He’s good to work with.”

The ‘happy house’ is occupied by a tenant that Corbin says doesn’t mind the colorful exterior. Corbin laughed.

“He tells me that he hasn’t had so much attention.”

Others might disagree.

“Speaking only for myself, I think while the property owner has every right to paint his house like this, it does create what an average person would probably consider an eyesore.  That’s unfortunate, because the only people likely to be hurt by this are the residents of the neighborhood who not only have to look at this unsightly house every day, but might even worry that if it stays like this it could impact their property values,” said town councilman Keith Price who is saddened at the situation and is optimistic for an eventual positive solution.

While the ARB has design jurisdiction over the town’s historic district, Corbin’s property on E. Piedmont Street is outside of that area.

“The Town does not have any regulation over paint colors on structures outside of the historic district,” said Rapp.

Seen by many on council as a retaliatory move on Corbin’s part because of their decision, Corbin is adamant that he is making a point, one which according to Corbin, has the support of a number of local businesses that have sent him words of encouragement and support.

In the meantime, the colorful house stands.

“This has put a financial hardship on me,” says Corbin estimating that it will probably cost him upwards of $30,000 to have the vinyl windows taken out and replaced with approved windows, a list that has been supplied to him by the ARB.

Disappointed and shocked by council’s action, in correspondence dated April 27 sent to Salem Bush with copies to town council members, Corbin writes. “While I am not happy with their decision [ARB] and Town Council decision on removing the new vinyl windows, I will replace them.”

As part of that correspondence, Corbin urged council to notify all of the property owners that he identified that they need to replace their windows as well. “The sad part about this is that most of the homeowners can’t afford $600-$1200 per window, and these businesses and some of the LLCs that own these properties, are a large source of income for the town and large contributors to charity organizations and civic groups.”

“I’ve made my statement so I’m hoping we can just let it be for the moment,” said Corbin adding that the ‘happy house’ could be a lot happier since his original plans were to have new siding, a new roof and new shutters but, right now, he’s not so incentivized.

Anita Sherman is the editor and may be reached at




About Anita Sherman 145 Articles
Anita Sherman is the editor of the Culpeper Times. You may reach her at


  1. I’ve driven by this house and didn’t realize the issue was over the windows. I also wonder if the house meets the codes for the town as for the colors? There are other houses in town that have bright colors but are more uniform and not multi-colored as this one is.

    • The issue with the windows concerns another of his properties – not this one. As far as the colors, the town has no jurisdiction over what color you paint your house if it is outside the historic district which this property is. The town currently does not have a maintenance code – which has been discussed off and on over the years – but a policy has not been put in place.

  2. The minutiae town boards find so important are hardly if ever recognized by the rest of the town’ s people. Their “rules” are often archaic and nonsensical, many of which should have been revised decades ago. But these rigid board members just can’t seem to give up on the power they think others have given them. If voters knew how many board members let their positions go to their egotistical heads, they would never vote for them. No common sense is the center of most of their decisions.

  3. There is not just “One Tenant” in that E Piedmont Street house Corbin owns as this article states, but he has 6 non-related tenants in that 3 bedroom home, various ones are sex and child porno offenders. Corbin hurts the community and neighborhood. He knew he was breaking the city ordinance on vinyl windows and did it anyway, now he is mad that they called him on it.

    • I certainly hope you have proof on the porn part. As far as unrelated tenants…is that against county ordinances?

    • You know you’re in Culpeper when someone makes up some MAJOR lies to try to make people get on their ‘side’. The amount of ignorance and uncultured people in this town is utterly astounding. How shameful!

  4. these board members of Culpepper have to much authority as do most boards….kick em out they are way to full of themselves

    • If you look at the town of Culpeper one of their buildings they put new windows in and it was also an historic building and they didn’t follow code, in fact one of the guys that was working there told us they didn’t follow and get approval from the architectural boards where are they to tell other people what to do with their windows

  5. Amen Steve. Everyone should be treated the same. I truly believe this for every aspect of businesses. Thank you for speaking out and bringing this to everyone’s attention.

Comments are closed.