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Thread: Historic commission authority level (esp. Texas planners)

  1. #1
    Jun 2007
    Oklahoma City

    Historic commission authority level (esp. Texas planners)

    How much authority does your community's Historic Preservation/Landmark Commission exercise over their jurisdictions, and do their jurisdictions include some form of designated historically contibuting properties only, or entire jurisdictions (if both, are there any difference in level)?

    Background: I am our city staff HPC liaison, and am also the project manager for our developing UDC. Our commission currently exercises wide authority over an entire district, which is basically the entire original incorporated area (small town/Austin exurb, approx. 1,000 residents in the historic district, 17,000 population in whole town), including new construction and any exterior alteration to existing structures whether they're designated as contributing by our historic resources survey or not. City staff would like to limit their purview to just the designated contributing structures, but we are facing quite a bit of pushback from the commission. Our (staff's) rationale is that noncontributing structures (such as the 100 or so ranch houses and derelict shacks in the district) should not have to wait up to a month to be included on the HPC meeting agendas (as is customary), just to be held to historical design standards that the structures don't have any similarity to. HPC has argued that they want to retain their power, and want to potentially create new contributing structures. They already oversee new construction. The present issue is only in relation to things such as (any) exterior alterations and renovations up to our 50%/$50,000 mark where they'd have to meet them all anyways.

  2. #2
    Feb 2002
    Athens, Georgia
    Our HPC only reviews properties within designated districts or landmark sites. However, they do allow for staff level review of certain types of work and in our newest district that list of staff level review projects was broadened for non-contributing properties.

    Many of our non-designated historic areas have seen increasing infill development and regulations have been added to try to get new structures that fit in with the areas and are reviewed for the zoning permit. Fitting in with the neighborhood is important everywhere, not just historic areas and this aims for some basic design strategies to be implemented like height not towering over the neighbors.

    Additionally, our Mayor and Commission (like our City Council) review full or partial demolitions at properties over 50 years old that are not already designated historic and have the potential to hold up the demolition for 90 days to give them time to see if designation is needed and the demo should be prevented.

    I urge you to look for ways to review work on non-contributing properties within the historic districts under a COA process- even if only staff level- and to incorporate basic design standards for infill development into other areas as part of zoning requirements and review.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
    Jun 2005
    NYC area
    My understanding is that best practices in historic preservation (as laid down by the US Dept. of the Interior) state that alterations to noncontributing structures should be reviewed by the local HPC as any changes to them could potentially have a negative impact to the surrounding contributing structures. Our HPC grants noncontributing structures more leeway than contributing structures in terms of what is acceptable and what is not, but they still have to obtain a certificate of appropriateness if they are within a locally landmarked district.

    We struggled with this issue prior to adoption of our recent CLG-compliant historic preservation law and our SHPO made it clear that noncontributing structures are to be reviewed by the Commission due to the reasons I stated above.

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