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Thread: Small town historic preservation: creating overlay districts

  1. #1
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    Small town historic preservation: creating overlay districts

    Hello all,

    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 issues.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Contact your State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO). That office can provide the resources and most of the support you need. The remaining support must come from the community wanting to do better. Oh, and good luck!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    Contact your State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO). That office can provide the resources and most of the support you need. The remaining support must come from the community wanting to do better. Oh, and good luck!
    ^^^What he said. Check out http://www.iowahistory.org/historic-...ion/index.html.
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  4. #4
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    This sounds like a tough situation. I am not clear on your role in all of this (City employee or whatever) but you may also want to start shoring up support from your local elected officials whose votes for an overlay district with, it sounds like, design guidelines for new construction as well, will be critical to passing any legislation to help with the situation. In our town, our City Counselors also have the right to declare a temporary moratorium on new construction approvals if there is a pressing issue like this (and builders are sneaking in under the wire to construct their snout houses).

    Here is a link to some info on our historic overlay zones. The pdfs there are only maps, so if you also want to see the particular language of specific overlay zones, go here. This is a page with all the planning department's documents, so scroll through to find anything that says Overlay Zone. I live in the 8th and Forester one and in that doc, the guidelines for new construction are on page 6. Look at some others as well to see if language varies.

    Yes, and good luck, too!
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  5. #5
    Member
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    Thanks for the suggestions! I'll probably be talking to more community members soon and I'll be contacting the SHPO as well. I'm trying to find some analogous communities and compare language in different codes so looking at what other places have is quite helpful. Thanks!

  6. #6
    Member
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    Location
    San Francisco
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    Parcels are Annoying. Consider Moving Structures.

    A little backstory first. Front desk woman in Ithaca tells a tale of the beautiful Italianate accross the street. Owner became infirm. Double wide trailer was her new choice. No planning regs on the books as the rueful neighbor found out. Double wide it is.

    Another image is the house traveling down the street in Berkeley, CA. Utility crews were out to sever cables. Put them up pretty quick, too. Sunday, naturally.

    What Berkeley did was create a four square blockish area that memorialized the charm that was. "Blight" is a purely a matter of taste. Ought to raise alarm bells whenever mentioned. The ancients simply built things better. Discovery Channel moved quite a few structures in one series. It is all basically grunt work, determination, and care. A grant could take care of the rest.

    Sounds like a good job for a planner to me. Some who care about what the built environment says to the grandchildren in your community might even warm to the idea.

  7. #7
    Member
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    Fort Collins, CO
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    Interpretive planning is a great tool with historic preservation communities -

    Interpretive planners usually work with national parks, historic sites and parks, but the skills apply to communities as well. We can help a community identify the core values of the community through civic engagement and develop a logic model of measurable objectives from impacts to outcomes to outputs. It is a way of identifying clearly what you want as a community and what you do not want, but it does usually require facilitation to bring folks together who may not be used to working together strategically. Lisa Brochu and I have a new book - Put the HEART Back In Your Community: Unifying Diverse Interests Around a Central Theme - that includes 19 case studies of communities doing these kinds of things. All the best with your efforts in this area.

  8. #8
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Moderator note:
    Tim, most of your posts are self-promotional in nature. A few of your early posts are still in the moderation queue; they all have links to your Web site, and they're probably not going to appear on the site because of their self-promotional nature. We may be going through older posts to make edits.

    While some self-promotion is acceptable, we ask that it be subtle and very infrequent, especially if you're new to Cyburbia.

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