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Thread: Special district overlays and architectural conservation

  1. #1
    Cyburbian graciela's avatar
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    Special district overlays and architectural conservation

    We are having some issues with one of our more signature areas of town and are researching solutions. There are a number of historic homes occupied by Fraternities and Sororites and "light professional" uses along the corridor. We are trying to figure a way to protect the character of the area as a whole and work on getting individual property owners to pursue local historic designation.

    I have been reading through the archives and trying to find information about special district overlays. I ran across Architectural Conservation Areas during my search and really like the concept. I am wondering if there is a good way to marry the idea of ACAs with SDOs and maybe add some form based code for good measure? Are there some good examples out there that I can share with the leadership here?

    Of course, it is entirely possible that I am completely lost and barking up the wrong tree!
    Last edited by graciela; 17 Oct 2007 at 1:18 PM. Reason: I hit the submit button by accident
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  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    It depends on what you are trying tp preserve. If it is the architecture, than a local district is the best method. If you have a local program already, great, use it to add incentives to promote preserving the district. If it is purely character and there are some historic structures scattered about, then a conservation overlay is the best way. I think Austin TX has some good conservation overlays. Whatever method you choose, you need to have guidelines and standards ao that the purpose of the district can be achieved. You also need city staff that is well versed on the subject and able to administer the district or overlay.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian graciela's avatar
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    Thanks! I will check into Austin's conservation overlays. Right now, the big concern in this area is preservation of character.
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I live in this conservation overlay.

    The standards are good but there are some flaws. For example, I wanted to put an addition on my house (not visible from any public way) and was denied by the conservation commmittee. However, if I wanted to do a COMPLETE tear down and rebuild, that decision bypassess the committee and goes straight to Plan Commission. Several homes around the corner have fallen in the last year due to this flaw. On the bright side, the new infill was sensitive to the character of the neighborhood.

    Good Luck

  5. #5
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    You might look at some of Albuquerque's plan documents as they relate to this issue. Here, all Historic Overlays are primarily concerned with architectural character and even more specifically the facade (windows, finish material, roofing).

    In contrast to Chet's example, in my district (8th and Forrester - you can link to it below) they recognize that many of these homes are rather small by today's standards and so actually encourage additions off the back of the home when people need to expand their living space (ie. not visible form the street). These regulations apply to any owner, whether a residence or a business (and we have a lot of law firm's in the districts near downtown here). Owners of historic properties (whether a residence or for-profit enterprise) are also eligible for state income tax credits and something like this might be an incentive for places like the sororities and fraternities to agree to the designation as it could help them with future renovations and maintenance.

    You can link to the individual plans as pdf's from this page:

    http://www.cabq.gov/planning/publications/

    Look specifically at these documents:
    8th and Forrester Historic Overlay Zone

    Downtown 2010 Sector Development Plan (2000) - specifically the Downtown Development and Building Process section (this has a form-based code that applies in the Downtown Core that also includes an overlay district. There re lots of examples of how infill and renovation should be designed to fit in with existing character. This was Albuquerque's first experiment with form-based codes.

    Historic Preservation in Albuquerque - this is a general document, but it explains overview-type info on overlay districts, landmarks, etc.and breaks it down in a way that is pretty easy to understand for the average property owner (ie. non-planner folk).
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  6. #6
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    Legalities and Oregon

    The districts that you mention preserve some semblance of heritage. They are presumably on firm legal ground and nationally well respected.

    Do tell me if the impression overly complacent. The tack of developers and current property owners in Oregon took a different and apparently successful turn. The potential value is deflated by the regulations. Courts ruled that many of the conscientiously assembled, if arcane, restrictions on development constituted a "taking," if I remember the term correctly.

    So, anticipating the worst out of wherever I wind up, can anyone point to an approach and resources for defending preservation efforts against the less stewardly minded?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian graciela's avatar
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    I am still researching this one. I am trying to present the study group with a variety of options to choose from. Thanks to your suggestions, I have founds some really good examples of various approaches and have also found some bad examples. I never realized that there were so many ways to handle special overlay districts! The approach that I like best but probably will never fly is having the stakeholders get together and come up with a plan for their overlay district. I could then put together the standards for the district based on the input. Beautiful! If it went well with this first area, there are a other areas in the city/county that would benefit from similar treatment. It would be a long process but we have very active citizens here and I think it would be great. Of course, we just completed our comprehensive plan update so there is some burnout from that.

    I think that we will probably end up doing some sort of conservation overlay for the area that is in question at the moment. I hate being reactionary!
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