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Proposed Historic District Changes

Proposed Historic District Changes: No Will Mean No, 67 Percent Will Mean Yes

THE MAYOR’S office is out with a “public comment draft” of proposed changes to Houston’s Historic Preservation Ordinance.
The biggest (and most expected) change: There’ll be no more 90-day “compliance waivers” issued for historic-district properties. Under the previous ordinance, owners of contributing properties in historic districts whose plans for new construction, demolition, or renovation had been rejected by the city’s historic commission could proceed with those plans anyway after simply waiting 90 days.

Under these changes, the Old Sixth Ward — labeled a “protected” historic district because the waivers weren’t allowed there — will now be the model for all others.

But the changes also include a completely revised process for neighborhoods to vote on historic-district status. Previously, for a neighborhood to file an historic-preservation application, it needed to submit a petition signed by owners representing more than 51 percent of its tracts. But the new system puts power into the hands of owners who are willing to express an opinion and takes it away from those who can’t be bothered or found.

It allows an application to be filed if 67 percent of the property owners in a district who send in special cards distributed for that purpose indicate on those cards that they’re in favor of the designation.

There’s more. Here’s the city’s official summary of the changes:

* * *  Revised the Historic Designation process by eliminating the petition process. Instead a property owner or owners may initiate an application. The Planning Department will send cards to all property owners within a proposed district after holding a public meeting on the proposed district. In order for the application to move forward, 67% of the owners of tracts in the proposed district who return cards must indicate their support for the district. The boundaries may be modified to achieve the required support. Historic District designation may still be initiated by the Historic Commission.

Further clarified the use of new materials for rehabilitation, restoration, addition of any landmark, protected landmark, or any building, structure object in an historic district, or any building, structure or object that is part of an archaeological site.
New construction in an historic district must be compatible with the setback, exterior features and proportions of contributing and potential contributing structures on the blockface and facing block faces.

Expanded the submittal requirements for certificates of appropriateness for the demolition of a historic structure and modified the criteria for demolitions proposed by nonprofit organizations.
Eliminated the 90 day Waiver Certificate for contributing and potentially contributing structure within an historic district or for new construction in an historic district.
The Old Sixth Ward Protected Historic District becomes an historic district which will have the same protections it currently enjoys, thus rendering the separate treatment of the Old Sixth Ward Protected Historic District redundant.

Five public meetings are scheduled to discuss the changes, beginning July 27th and ending August 10th.

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