Urban planning community | #theplannerlife

  • Post of the Day: Small town historic preservation: creating overlay districts

    kitikiti'sh writes:

    I live in a great small town. It's a thriving little community, has a wonderful downtown, and a strong economy. It also has (for the time being) quite a few historic buildings.

    The town has one historic district, established in the '70s, that covers a few blocks of large and distinguished 19th-century homes, but no historic district or design overlay district for the rest of the city. Even the historic district, there are no guidelines for new construction- a vacant lot in the district now has a suburban-style "snout" house coming right up to the sidewalk.

    Downtown, the oldest house in town is scheduled to be torn down for a new snout house. A few blocks east of downtown on the main street, a large brick Italianate house- well-kept, in superb condition- will be torn down for a medical building, and an interesting industrial building will be torn down for a vacant lot.

    I'm very worried about the future of our downtown and historic neighborhoods. There is a toothless historic district designation and nothing else in this town. I'd like to explore the option of some sort of overlay district that would require demolition review, and standards for new construction. I'd like to keep it pretty basic, but ensure that we aren't just replacing our old buildings with suburban crap.

    A complicating issue is the town's recent history with historic preservation initiatives. An old school on the NRHP (one of the 11 Most Endangered Places a while back) was torn down a few years ago and it totally poisoned the atmosphere in this place with regards to conversations about H.P.

    I'm looking for resources that you might be able to recommend for creating some sort of basic overlay district, or other suggestions you might have. Also, if you know of analogous communities/situations, it would be great to know what other places have been doing. I'm not a part of any local government, but I know some people on the city council, and I have some background in planning.

    See the responses here.