What Local Historic District DOES NOT do: · Does not regulate paint colors · Does not require repairs or renovations to be made · Does not increase taxes beyond normal increases for the City or County · Does not prevent additions · Does not prevent non-contributing homes from being demolished · Does not require use of historic materials or historic building methods · Does not require that you open you home to the public · Does not restrict routine maintenance of properties
What Local Historic District DOES do: · Recognizes that Oakhurst has a distinctive historic character important to the overall character of the City of Decatur · Encourages creative and compatible development with historic areas · Requires that a Certificate of Appropriateness be obtained for exterior changes to contributing properties, demolition of buildings, and new construction. · Applies only to major renovations to the exterior of your home. Interior renovations are not restricted.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Georgia Cities and Counties with Historic Preservation Ordinances
1. Acworth
2. Albany
3. Americus
4. Ashburn
5. Athens-Clarke County
6. Atlanta
7. Augusta-Richmond Co.
8. Avondale Estates
9. Bowdon
10. Brunswick

11. Calhoun
12. Camilla
13. Carrollton
14. Cartersville
15. Cedartown

16. Clayton County
17. Cobb County
18. Colquitt
19. Columbus
20. Conyers
21. Cordele
22. Covington

23. Culloden
24. Dahlonega
25. Dalton
26. Darien

27. Dawsonville
28. Decatur
29. DeKalb County
30. Douglas
31. Douglasville

32. Dublin
33. Eatonton
34. Elberton
35. Euharlee
36. Fannin County
37. Fayetteville
38. Fitzgerald
39. Flowery Branch

40. Forsyth
41. Fort Oglethorpe
42. Fort Valley
43. Gainesville
44. Grantville
45. Greensboro
46. Griffin

47. Gordon County
48. Hahira
49. Hampton
50. Harlem
51. Hartwell
52. Hawkinsville
53. Heard County
54. Hinesville
55. Hogansville
56. Holly Springs
57. Jefferson
58. Jones County
59. Kennesaw
60. La Grange
61. Lavonia
62. Lexington
63. Lilly
64. Lincolnton
65. Locust Grove
66. Ludowici
67. Macon
68. Madison
69. Marietta
70. Marshallville
71. McDonough
72. McDuffie County
73. McIntosh County
74. Midville
75. Milledgeville
76. Monroe
77. Montezuma
78. Monticello

79. Moreland
80. Moultrie
81. Newnan
82. Oxford
83. Parrott
84. Pike County
85. Plains
86. Porterdale
87. Quitman
88. Reidsville
89. Richland
90. Rome
91. Roopville
92. Roswell
93. Rutledge
94. Savannah
95. Senoia
96. Social Circle
97. Sparta-Hancock Co.
98. St. Marys
99. Stone Mountain

100. Talking Rock
101. Taylor County
102. Thomaston
103. Thomasville
104. Tifton
105. Troup County

106. Tybee Island
107. Valdosta
108. Vienna
109. Walker County
110. Warm Springs
111. Washington
112. Waycross
113. Wayne County
114. Waynesboro
115. West Point
116. Whitfield County
117. Winder
118. Wrens

Bold indicates Certified Local Governments (72)

The principles for creating local design-review programs are spelled out in state legislation. In Georgia the Historic Preservation Act of 1980 enables local ordinances and provides guidance for the establishment of local preservation commissions. When the federal legislation created the CLG program in that year, a legislative framework and a grant fund were created that strengthened community preservation programs through a formal link with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

Friday, October 19, 2007

Another quote from Rome, New York

What does being an owner of a property in the Historic District mean to me - can I make changes to my property?

Historic districts are not designed to prevent changes. Rather, they assist in shaping changes that enhance the historic assets that make a property and the district unique. Rome’s Historic District properties are protected by a special design review process that helps ensure that proposed changes are compatible with the nature of the property and character of the surrounding properties.

Their review process is very similar to Decatur, Georgia.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pending Development Could Impact Your Property Values

Pending Development Could Impact Your Property Values

Our historic neighborhood is surrounding by large tracts of commercial property. Just like the development of MARTA, the development of these tracts will have a major impact on the unique historic character of our neighborhood. Poor redevelopment will detract from the sense of place that once was the original town of Oakhurst and what the 1987 survey by Darlene Roth states defines architecture in Decatur. The benefit of ensuring these properties respect the historic character of our neighborhood has the added benefit of making sure all of Oakhurst retains that sense of place that we all love. There are also opportunities under Local Historic District Ordinance to provide incentives for reconstruction and disincentives for allowing a property to stay in a state of neglect.

Boys and Girls Club is considering relocating. The zoning for this 5.5 acres+ lot is R60. R60 Zoning uses without public hearing include single-family dwellings, elementary, middle, and secondary schools, public utilities, public buildings, churches, and family personal care homes. There is sufficient room for a planned residential development. Under the proposed new infill guidelines the homes can get progressively taller.

Thankful Baptist Church is zoned institution and comprises 3.82 acres+
Institutional zoning allows for Churches and other places of worship, associated single-family, two-family and multiple-family dwellings, colleges, seminaries, related professional offices, public and private schools, nursery schools, an small business, clinics, medical and dental offices, boarding and rooming houses, and clubs. Maximum building height allowed is 45 feet.

Bell South was purchased by AT&T and they are re-evaluating their real estate holdings. This 7.85 acre+ land area is zoned C-1. Maximum building height is 40 feet and three stories, minimum set back is zero. Set back next to residential is only 10 feet side yard and 30 feet real line. Uses for C-1 Local include retail shops, appliance sales and service, drugstores, and other sales and service establishments. Food, furniture and hardware stores, clinics, medical office buildings, professional office buildings, and financial institutions are also allowed. None of these uses require a public hearing.

The commercial property located at 636 East Lake Drive in the Oakhurst commercial district is 2.11 acres of C-1 property too. Similarly, the small commercial areas located at Mead Road and West College Avenue (.25 acre) and at Feld Avenue and West College Avenue (.25) are zoned C-1 local. It is also rumored that Marta is considering selling their parking lot between West College Avenue and Park Place for development (.75 acre).

Development of all of these properties could have an immediate and direct impact on your property value and enjoyment of your home. Within a local historic district a public hearing would be required even for the approved uses under the zoning laws. That would give you the opportunity to protect your home and your largest investment. Outside of a local historic district you do not have that luxury.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Buying a Home in a Historic District

Buying a Home in a Historic District

www.bobvila.com/HowTo_Library/Buying_a_Home_in_an_Historic_District-Home_Buying-A1541.html

A National Register citation confirms a home's historic significance, but the real worth may be realized in the stability and strength of the property's value. A 2000 study of South Carolina home sales shows that homes in Columbia's historic districts sold 26 percent faster than the overall market; while historic Beauport owners saw a whopping 21 percent greater sale price. In Rome, Georgia, properties in designated historic neighborhoods increased in value 10 percent more than similar properties without historic designation between 1980 and 1996. Studies in Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania corroborate the positive effect an historic district designation has on property values, with overall increases between 5 percent and 20 percent. The stability of property value appears to extend to owner tenure as well: There is a reportedly lower owner turnover within historic districts than in neighborhoods lacking that distinction.

What are the advantages of Local Historic District?

This is from a website for Rome, New York. The town has about 35,000 residents. More information regarding the City can be found at http://www.romenewyork.com/detail.asp?key=2201. It is an interesting perspective.

People purchase historic properties for many reasons . . .

Some like the idea of owning a "piece of history” and believe that quality of construction in older structures is superior to that found in modern structures. Large rooms, high ceilings, rich materials and intricate details are often an attraction. Other people simply like urban neighborhoods or rural areas in which historic properties are found. Established landscapes and mature plants and trees surrounding historic properties often add significant value. Properties in need of repair can often be purchased at a reduced price, enabling the purchaser to increase value through restoration and rehabilitation. Whatever the reason, it can be said that investing in historic properties and in historic districts helps preserve the history of the community for future generations to enjoy and learn. Historic districts have a unique sense of place desired by many people.

Owning property in a local historic district helps ensure that the neighborhood will be protected from unmanaged change. Because the review process requires public comment, neighboring property owners are usually given an opportunity to review and comment on alterations in their area before a decision is rendered. Owners have the security of knowing that neighboring properties will not suffer unsympathetic changes. Property owners historic districts are sometimes eligible to receive benefits not available to others in the city and are usually able to take advantage of preservation experts who work and volunteer for the city. Grant money may be available for professional design assistance, fa├žade renovation and other projects to help preserve the area, which may encourage new investment. Local, State and Federal tax incentives also become available to designated Historic District properties to encourage owners to improve their buildings and bring investment to core neighborhoods.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

March CNN Story

Here is an excerpt from CNN’s Open House aired 3/31/2007. The City of Atlanta has passed new zoning that are aimed at limiting the size and mass of in-fill housing. Note that one architect states the difficulty of accomplishing that goal through zoning as opposed to a zoning overlay.

Also Atlanta City Councilwoman Norwood points out the oversized house can literally cause the smaller house to lose value because it is only worth the land. It becomes a tear-down. Norwood was behind the newly passed zoning.

Local historic district zoning overlay helps to maintain the character and look of neighborhoods. It protects the unique historic character of an area while still allowing additions, new construction, growth and development. It takes a little more work, but the results can be phenomenal.

The entire transcript can be found at http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0703/31/oh.01.html. Here is the entire piece regarding McMansions

WILLIS: McMansions, those oversized homes that seem to be popping up all over the country. Well, they're not always popular. In fact, some neighbors are downright determined to keep those ginormous (ph) houses out of their town. That's what's going on right now in Atlanta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)WILLIS (voice over): Drive through Atlanta's older neighborhoods, and they're hard to miss -- new houses, most of them big, and some the subject of controversy.

DORIS BETZ, ATLANTA RESIDENT: If you go down the streets and you see these out-of-scale, out-of-proportion homes to the craftsmen bungalows around it, it just looks like it doesn't belong. It's just not keeping with the integrity, the historic integrity.

DAVIS: Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood is leading the fight against so-called McMansions.

MARY NORWOOD, ATLANTA CITY COUNCILWOMAN: If you are the egregious example and you are three to four times the size of the house next door, that house can literally lose value because it is only worth the land. It becomes a tear-down.

WILLIS: Norwood is trying to pass new regulations that would limit the size of houses, and she hopes would help maintain the character and look of Atlanta's signature neighborhoods. But critics say the regulations won't work.

DAVID GREEN, ATLANTA ARCHITECT: If they make the changes that are proposed, it's going to become an incredibly complicated, complex process, that ultimately really won't have any effect on the way that we see the houses from the street. [zoning laws changes make it more complex]

WILLIS: The proposed regulations are complex, but they boil down to restricting the square footage and height of a new home, based on the size and elevation of the lot.

COOPER PIERCE, ATLANTA ARCHITECT: I think we have come up with recommendations that will limit that bulk, but still allow people, if they want to build a 3,000-square foot home or a 5,000-square foot home in an existing neighborhood. [recommendation are similar to the local historic district design guidelines]

WILLIS: But opponents say the regulations won't allow even modest two-story homes to be built on some lots. And some folks here say in order to bring families into established communities, larger houses are a necessity. [local historic district allow the community to create specific guidelines that protect their specific resources]

CINDY DAVIS, ATLANTA HOMEOWNER: People don't want to live in a small house anymore. People want to have a larger house, especially if it's more than one person living there, you know. This neighborhood traditionally had been a lot of single people, a lot of younger people, and that's changing. And the housing stock is changing with that. [actually the neighborhood is only 15% single, 15% retired, 25% married/committed no kids, rest are families - scare tactic from the neighbor]

WILLIS: Changes that could have a major impact on the look and feel of Atlanta's neighborhoods. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIS: Those proposed regulations are still being debated in Atlanta. The earliest they could go into effect, May of this year.

What does the majority report from the infill task force say?



Drawings that reflect what could be built under the majority infill report. Note that with a sloping lot the maximum height could reach 40-42'. That is much taller than what is allowed under the current zoning.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Quote from the historic survey in 1987

"Oakhurst and related sections (Greater Decatur and East End) represent what Decatur was becoming and was to become when these parts were annexed to the city in 1915 and 1916. After Oakhurst, the moderately scaled, modestly decorated, soily nestled suburban house was the norm for Decatur. There were no more large scale subdivisions carried out in Decatur which had the architectural pretensions of an Adamas Street or its large scale....Thus Oakhurst and all the related subdivision constitutes the most represetnative kind of historic building Decatur has...it is the recommendation here that the City take whatever actions it can to enable itself to effectively and efficiently establish a balance between new developments and older constructions, to maintain scale and landscape effects, and to encourage new architecture which is sympathetic to the endemic styles. The kind of community identity rooted in landscape and architectural features which Decatur enjoys is a precious resource, one to be carefully and thoughtfully safeguarded. ... Because of the richness of its base of resources, however, the City of Decatur could yield to the tempation of taking them for granted. Should this happen, much more erosion of the qualities of life which have made Decatur a special place could occur."

This was 20 years ago. Since 2000 Oakhurst has experienced a surge of demolition and new construction unlike any other part of the City of Decatur. From the data available we are losing one home to demolition per month.

Quotes from the Architectural Survey of 1990

"This section of Decatur, the southwest, contains some of the oldest subdivisions in the city. The Oakhurst Subdivision lie in the area bounded roughly by Third Avenue on the north, and by the city limits on the south. The eastern boundary is Fatetteville Road, and the western boundary is the city limits.

The predominant architectural style is the bungalow with a little or great amount of Craftsman detailing. Excellent examples of all levels of variation exist in the area. In addition, the Oakhurst subdivisions also have good examples of Queen Annes, Pyramidal Cottages, two-story craftsmans, Gabled Ells, Georgian Revival Bungalows, Temple Forms, Minimal Traditionals, American Foursquare, and a few English Vernacular Revivals. Oakhurst is a dense repository of all of the historic house forms found in Decatur."

Answer to a previous comment regarding COAs

Amanda,

The following question appeared on the blog we are managing.

Sec. 58-3. Definitions.The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning: Certificate of appropriateness means a document evidencing approval by the historic preservation commission of an application to make a material change in the appearance of a designated historic property or of a property located within a designated historic district. Certificate of exemption means a document evidencing approval by the historic preservation commission or its authorized designee of an application to make a change other than a material change as defined by the design guidelines adopted as part of the ordinance designating the specific local historic property or local historic district. Exterior architectural features means the architectural style, general design and general arrangement of the exterior of a building or other structure including, but not limited to, the kind or texture of the building material and the type and style of all windows, doors, signs and other appurtenant architectural fixtures, features, details or elements relative to the foregoing. Exterior environmental features means all those aspects of the landscape or the development of a site which affect the historical character of the property. Historic district means a geographically definable area designated by city commission as a historic district pursuant to the criteria established in section
58-62. Historic property means an individual building, structure, site, object or work of art, including the adjacent area necessary for the proper appreciation thereof, designated by city commission as a historic property pursuant to the criteria established in section
58-63. Material change in appearance means a change that will affect either the exterior architectural or environmental features of a historic property or any building, structure, site, object, landscape feature or work of art within a historic district, such as: (1) A reconstruction or alteration of the size, shape or facade of a historic property, including any doors or windows or removal or alteration of any architectural features, details or elements;(2) Demolition or relocation of a historic structure; (3) Commencement of excavation for construction purposes;(4) A change in the location of advertising visible from a public right-of-way; or(5) The erection, alteration, restoration or removal of any building or other structure within a historic property or district, including walls, fences, steps and pavements, or other appurtenant features.

Does this mean non-contributing homes do not require a COA?

It would seem to indicate that demolition of non-contributing homes and new construction require a COA, Other alterations would not. Is this correct? Thanks.


All “material changes” to a building, structure, site etc. require design review. The ordinance designates what level of review based on the project (COA/COE), the review jurisdiction (four sides, visible from right of way), and the design guidelines outline what types of changes are compatible with the district.

Amanda Thompson
City of Decatur
678-553-6513
athompson@decaturga.com

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Quote from the State of Michigan Historic Preservation Commission

Quote from the State of Michigan Historic Preservation Commission.

"The primary reason for establishing local historic districts is to manage how change occurs in a designated area to ensure that as much of the original character as possible remains intact. After all, changes that occur to one property can impact the property next door, the block, and ultimately the neighborhood overall."

"Michigan's Local Historic Districts Act declares historic preservation a public purpose to safeguard a community's heritage, strengthen local economies, stabilize and improve property values, foster civic beauty and promote history."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What Midtown Says About Their Pursuit of LHD

A Neighborhood Worth Preserving...

In order to define just what we are trying to preserve, we did an informal survey of what midtown means to you. Not surprisingly, many of the lists overlapped. Here are the common themes:

Neighborhood feel in an urban setting
An eclectic mix of houses
Old homes that provide a sense of history
Trees!
Walkablity and proximity to parks, shopping, and restaurants
Diversity of residents (village feel) These are all things that a Local Historic District can help to protect!

Benefits:

A Local Historic District is an overlay to existing zoning that provides additional protection for historic structures. Some of the benefits of being a part of a Local Historic District include:

Historic preservation helps to maintain a sense of place and to bolster the character, community, and visual appeal of a neighborhood.
Historic districts provide a framework for a cohesive neighborhood while still embracing a wide variety of styles.
Protected neighborhoods draw economic activity because they are good places to live and work and great places to visit! More information on Property values in historic districts.

Other Atlanta Historic Districts:

Adair Park
Cabbagetown
Castleberry Hill
Druid Hills
Grant Park
Inman Park
M L King Jr.
Oakland City
West End
Whittier Mill

http://www.preservemidtownatlanta.org/

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Economics, Sustainability & Historic Preservation

Quotes from the following article: http://www.nationaltrust.org/advocacy/case/Rypkema_Speech_on_Sustainability_in_Portland.pdf

"Razing historic buildings results in a triple hit on scarce resources. First, we are throwing away thousands of dollars of embodied energy. Second, we are replacing it with materials vastly more consumptive of energy. What are most historic houses built from? Brick, plaster, concrete and timber -- among the least energy consumptive of materials. What are major components of new buildings? Plastic, steel, vinyl and aluminum – among the most energy consumptive of materials. Third, recurring embodied energy savings increase dramatically as a building life stretches over fifty years. You’re a fool or a fraud if you claim to be an environmentalist and yet you throw away historic buildings, and their components.

The World Bank specifically relates the concept of embodied energy with historic buildings saying, “…the key economic reason for the cultural patrimony case is that a vast body of valuable assets, for which sunk costs have already been paid by prior generations, is available. It is a waste to overlook such assets.”

I said earlier that in the US we haven't generally made the connection between sustainable development and historic preservation, but that there was one notable exception. The exception is Smart Growth. Dick Moe brought the preservation movement – with many of us kicking and screaming – into the forefront of Smart Growth…as well we should be. There is no movement in America today that enjoys more widespread support across political, ideological, and geographical boundaries than does Smart Growth. Democrats support it for environmental reasons, Republicans for fiscal reasons, big city mayors, rural county commissioners, there are Smart Growth supporters everywhere. The Smart Growth movement also has a clear statement of principles, and here it is:

• Create range of housing opportunities and choices
• Create walkable neighborhoods
• Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration
• Foster distinctive, attractive places with a Sense of Place
• Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective
• Mix land uses
• Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty and critical environmental areas
• Provide variety of transportation choices
• Strengthen and direct development toward existing communities
• Take advantage of compact built design.


But you know what? If a community did nothing but protect its historic neighborhoods it will have advanced every Smart Growth principle. Historic preservation IS Smart Growth. A Smart Growth approach that does not include historic preservation high on the agenda is stupid growth, period.

Historic preservation is vital to sustainable development, but not just on the level of environmental responsibility. The second component of the sustainable development equation is economic responsibility. So let me give you some examples in this area. An underappreciated contribution of historic buildings is their role as natural incubators of small businesses. It isn’t the Fortune 500 that are creating the jobs in America. 85% of all net new jobs are created by firms employing less than 20 people. One of the few costs firms of that size can control is occupancy costs – rents. In downtowns and in neighborhood commercial districts a major contribution to the local economy is the relative affordability of older buildings. It is no accident that the creative, imaginative, start-up firm isn’t located in the corporate office “campus” the industrial park or the shopping center – they simply cannot afford those rents. Historic commercial buildings play the natural business incubator role, usually with no subsidy or assistance of any kind.....


The area of preservation’s economic impact that’s been studied most frequently is the effect of local historic districts on property values. It has been looked at by a number of people and institutions using a variety of methodologies in historic districts all over the country. The most interesting result is the consistency of the findings. By far the most common conclusion is that properties within local historic districts appreciate at rates greater than the local market overall and faster than similar non-designated neighborhoods. Of the several dozen of these analyses, the worst-case scenario is that housing in historic districts appreciates at a rate equivalent to the local market as a whole......


So there are some ways that historic preservation contributes to sustainable development through environmental responsibility and through economic responsibility. But I saved the third area – cultural and social responsibility – for last, because in the long run it may well be the most important.

First, housing. In the United States today we are facing a crisis in housing. All kinds of solutions – most of them very expensive – are being proposed. But the most obvious is barely on the radar screen – quit tearing down older and historic housing. Homes built before 1950 disproportionately house people of modest means – the vast majority without any subsidy or public intervention of any kind. So you take these two facts – there is an affordable housing crisis and older housing is providing affordable housing and one would think, “Well, then, there must be a high priority to saving that housing stock.” Alas, not so.

For the last thirty years, every day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year we have lost 577 older and historic houses, over 80 percent of them single-family residences. The vast majority of these houses were consciously torn down, were thrown away as being valueless. For our most historic houses – those built before 1920 – in just the decade of the 1990s, 772,000 housing units were lost from our built national heritage.

Affordable housing is central to social responsibility; older and historic homes will continue to provide affordable housing if we just quit tearing them down. At least as important as housing affordability is the issue of economic integration. America is a very diverse country – racially, ethnically, educationally, economically. But on the neighborhood level our neighborhoods are not diverse at all. The vast majority of neighborhoods are all white or all black, all rich or all poor. But the exception – virtually everywhere I’ve looked in America – is in historic districts. There rich and poor, Asian and Hispanic, college educated and high school drop out, live in immediate proximity, are neighbors in the truest sense of the word. That is economic integration and sustainable cities are going to need it."

The entire article is a great read and resource. The author is a well respected preservation and economic consulting expert.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Goals of LHD per Akron, OH Historic District

Historic preservation is a continuum of choices affecting the landscape and buildings. This continuum includes maintenance of features that are historicially, architecturally, and culturally significant. Contemporary use can be achieved while retaining distinctive features.When we develop land and build structures, preservation adds economic value. Preservation requires the establishment and adherence to a set of standards. The cost of adhering to a set of standards is reasonable considering that good design elements add economic value to the larger community.Minimum standards established by the community in conjunction with the City, relating to aesthetics, appropriateness, and architectural compatibility, would be enforced in conditional zoning or zoning overlay of local historic district. In a historic district, changes in structures would be permitted to occur only when such changes are consistent with the preservation goals of the neighborhood that has established an historic district, unless health or safety concerns require an exception.

What are historic district good for anyway?

Interesting article on historic districts:
www.nh.gov/oep/programs/MRPA/conferences/documents/WhatAreHDsGoodFor-logo.doc

“Daniel Webster once said that a person who doesn’t respect the past isn’t performing his [or her] duty to the future. ““Historic districts have the paradoxical twin virtues of stability and flexibility. They encourage continuity and the care of existing properties, while respecting changes over time ‑‑ layers of life ‑‑ that add architectural richness and visual variety to townscapes. But they do not prevent new construction, nor should they prohibit contemporary design that is respectful of existing resources.”“What about the reasons NOT to have a local historic district? Whenever the idea of historic districting comes up locally, “historic district horror stories” are sure to follow. Most of them are either misinterpretations, or misunderstandings, or just plain wrong “

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

REPLAY: Regarding LHD and Diversity

Studies show that Local Historic Districts sustain diversity and racial mix of a community compared to more traditional suburban communities that are mostly segregated. With the rapid level of infill construction of home priced $600,000 - $1,000,000, will we be able to retain that diversity? Retaining diversity, avoiding the displacement of our elderly, poor and even middle class residents, and providing affordable housing within a community are concerns for any community that finds themselves with great demand for available land and therefore rapidly increases in land values.

It is true that there is a published paper "The Economic Power of Restoration" found at www.wisconsinhistory.org/hp/smartgrowth/economic_power_of_restoration.pdf. It states that historic districts reflect the diversity of a community unlike the majority of urban and suburban subdivisions that tend to be racially segregated. Why? Because a local historic district encourages a variety of housing sizes and therefore a variety of housing prices. Given the current land value in Decatur it is unrealistic to think we will easily provide affordable housing, but lhd can help us to maintain our diversity for what we hope is many more years.Many of our neighbors can not afford homes being priced from $600,000 - $1,000,000 in our neighborhood even if they sell their own homes for $300,000-$400,000 with 100% equity. Will that mean that continued infill development will mean a loss of diversity for Oakhurst? Only time will tell for certain.

Economic Power of Restoration

Here is a link to a very interesting article entitled “The Economic Power of Restoration” http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/hp/smartgrowth/economic_power_of_restoration.pdf.

A good bit of the article does not apply to the subject of local historic district. Pages 5,6 & 7 are the most useful. I follow with a few quotes from the article.

“The overwhelming majority of what we call “historic properties” have no international, in most cases not even national importance. But they have a local importance to the people who live there. Both economic development and historic preservation are essentially local in the United States…”

“Related to the issue of neighborhood stability is neighborhood diversity. America is a diverse country, ethnically, racially, economically. From a political perspective there’s not much unanimity in the U.S. regarding overall urban policy. But I think there is rather widespread agreement on one issue – our cities would be healthier if we had diverse urban districts – that no one particularly benefits from neighborhoods that are all rich or all poor; all white or all black. And while for over thirty years we have had laws prohibiting discrimination based on race or religion, while anyone with the money to buy can live wherever they choose, our neighborhoods as a whole are not diverse.”

“Let me give you an example. Philadelphia, one of America’s oldest cities, has a population of one and a half million people. It’s about 53% white, 40% black and the balance Asian and Other. But when the census is taken Block Groups are identified. A block group is small – in Philadelphia only eight or nine hundred people in each one. There are about 1,750 Block Groups in Philadelphia. While the city as a whole is certainly diverse, the Block Groups are not. In a recent analysis we said that to meet the test of a diverse neighborhood, the Block Group had to be less than 80% white and less than 80% black, that is no extreme concentration of any race.Barely one Block Group in five met that test. 79% Philadelphia small neighborhood clusters were effectively all white or all black. Not so in the National Register Historic Districts, however. In the 106 Block Groups within historic districts nearly half met the diversity test – people of all races living together because of the appeal of the historic neighborhood. These were not all high-income areas, by the way. The income distribution in Philadelphia’s historic districts mirrors the income of the city as a whole. There is housing available in historic neighborhoods to accommodate a wide range of income levels.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Commission Meeting Discussion 9/17/2007

We understand that the City Commission discussed the proposed local historic district with the boundaries set by the HPC last night at their regular commission meeting. The commission asked that the City of Decatur staff gather additional information related to the proposed district including the cost of conducting the necessary survey of the area. The commissions concerns were also discussed. The minutes to the meeting should be available soon on the City of Decatur website.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Valparaiso Historic District.

I posted the location of this a few post ago, but here it is again http://www.ci.valparaiso.in.us/HPC/Districts/Banta/Guidelines/7-About%20the%20Historic%20Preservation%20Commission.pdf

Here are a few more of the lessons learned from the study quoted:

* Designation as a local historic district does not discourage reinvestment in existing buildings.

* Strong, consistently enforced local ordinances have a greater positive impact on property values than do weaker ordinances

* Historic district commission approve more than 90% of the proposals they receive. Far from limiting what people can do with their properties, historic district commissions actually aid property owners by offering design assistance, advice on restoration techniques and products and guidance in finding suitable contractors.

* Historic neighborhoods can still effectively serve its traditional, multifunctional role in a community.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Article from Washington Post

What's the Best Way to Address 'Supersized Homes'? (Hint: It's Not Through Zoning)

By Roger K. Lewis, Saturday, August 20, 2005; F04

Big houses are here, and that makes plenty of people unhappy. For instance, Chevy Chase is struggling with what a Washington Post editorial called "supersized homes." The editorial suggested that "jurisdictions grappling with so-called McMansionization should be able to come to grips with the issue through a sensible mix of height, lot coverage and setback standards."
Regrettably, enacting height, lot coverage and setback standards -- zoning rules that govern site use and building size -- has never been an effective architectural or urban design tool. Creating beautiful environments depends on more than dimensional limits. Look at America's cities and suburbs to see what zoning alone has accomplished, or not accomplished.

In fact, under current zoning, "supersized" houses are perfectly legal. They often appear in established neighborhoods on lots where smaller, older houses have been torn down. Much larger and more expensive than homes lining the street they share, big new houses can hurt the collective scale, visual texture and historic character of a neighborhood. This is why many neighborhoods seek to control or even eliminate them.

But tinkering with conventional zoning can never adequately address basic aesthetic attributes that transcend building size. Many other design characteristics affect how a building is perceived and relates to its context: massing and volumetric articulation; roof geometry and roofing materials; facade composition and fenestration patterns; facade materials, details and ornamentation; and landscaping patterns, forms and materials.

A talented architect can fashion a house that is significantly bigger than neighboring houses yet is attractive and harmonious. Conversely, an inept designer could come up with a house that is similar or even smaller in size than neighboring houses yet looks out of place and unattractive.
For these reasons, jurisdictions must go beyond conventional zoning that does little more than regulate height, bulk and yard sizes. For neighborhoods warranting aesthetic stewardship, appropriate design goals and enforceable design guidelines are needed, coupled with a well-managed design review process.

The Post editorial hinted at this approach when it referred to Montgomery County's land-use authority and prevailing zoning restrictions, then stated that "a case can be made for extending those powers where possible to smaller-scale elected bodies" and local communities. If used properly in advance of issuing building permits, design review is a responsible and fair way to accomplish what local citizens and even some developers want. It transcends zoning with explicit design objectives, provides flexibility to meet those objectives and encourages fruitful discussion. It also recognizes the necessity of informed, case-by-case value judgments, despite specific design criteria.

Design review can't change the talent of an architect, the strong sentiments of a home buyer or the profit motives of a developer, but it can foster higher aesthetic aspirations. Constructive criticism during design can help turn mediocre projects into good ones, and good projects into better ones, while filtering out really bad ideas and ugly architecture. Nevertheless, a design review process won't succeed unless a number of conditions are satisfied. There must be clearly expressed design guidelines drafted carefully with both community and professional input. Guidelines are best understood and most useful when they are graphic and illustrate design objectives and limitations through diagrams or visual depictions of specific principles and concepts.

Design reviewers must be qualified and competent to interpret proposals and make judgments regarding both design guideline conformance and design quality. Usually jurisdictions appoint design review boards or committees made up of local citizens, public officials and design professionals, but the nature of those appointments is crucial.

If reviewers lack objectivity, bring personal agendas or have inadequate design experience, the process can be counterproductive. Review bodies must include at least a couple of recognized design practitioners -- architects and landscape architects -- who are respected by the community and who have no financial or professional stake in the outcome of the review.
Finally, design review procedures must ensure that the review process is transparent and timely. Meetings should be open to the public and scheduled during early phases of design, when conceptual alternatives are being formulated and refined.

Conducting the first design review meeting just before applying for a building permit, well after a design has been finalized and all construction documents produced, is useless and potentially very costly in time and money. Because this precludes constructive criticism and dialogue between designer and design reviewers, it would be unfair to both neighbors and developers.
Design review makes sense to me in part because of my own positive experiences with the process. Design reviews in which I have participated, although never flawless, generally have worked. The aesthetic aspirations of developers and their architects always have risen, as has the quality of buildings.

To gain time to explore ways to curtail construction of supersized homes, Chevy Chase has adopted an ordinance imposing a six-month building permit moratorium on new house construction and house demolition. Implementing a design review process should be one of the ways explored.

Roger K. Lewis is a practicing architect and a professor of architecture at the University of Maryland.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/19/AR2005081900790_pf.html

Article by Ann Hetzel Gunkel (preservation expert) "Why a Chicago Bungalow?"

Why a Chicago Bungalow? According to the architects of the Bungalow Company, "Since the 1920's, the average family has decreased in size; while the square footage of the average home has increased exponentially. From our perspective, the excessively large homes being built today contain space that is poorly utilized, consume far more energy than is reasonable, and are often built from inferior materials that just don't stand the test of time. We think there's a better way." Families need space, it is true--but the alternative preferred by many of our contemporaries is the excess of the suburban "Great Room house." This "new Victorianism" isn't so much about space as the abuse of space, in our opinion. The money, resources, land, and energy consumption of a 3500 square foot home for two is relative to the output of those resources for whole villages in much of the Third World. After all, the cost of the average "riding mower" (never mind the fuel to run it) is more than the yearly wages of most families in the world. The bungalow ethos stands is strict opposition to this schema. As Arts & Crafts guru Gustav Stickley commented in 1909, "The bungalow is planned and built to meet simple needs in the simplest and most direct way." This doesn't imply however some sort of insane Luddite turn. We are fortunate enough to have middle-class means and yes, we own a car. The bungalow ethos is a choice against the prevailing winds in home buying and construction in a city like Chicago and its suburbs. The amenities now sought in new home construction (lots of extraneous space, closets the size of Texas, "mudrooms," "great rooms," etc.) are lacking in our Chicago Bungalow. We feel these "amenities" promote and reinforce mindless consumerism and waste energy as well. The amenities of a 1920's bungalow are different: ease of movement, attention to craftsmanly details such as woodwork & plaster (no drywall!!), flowing floor plan, and efficient use of modest space. Jan Cigliano argues that "walking into a vintage bungalow...produces an immediate sense of ease because of the size, scale, and simplicity of the space." Ann Hetzel Gunkel

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Who can nominate an area to become a local historic district?

Who can nominate an area to become a local historic district? Any member of the Historic Preservation Commission or resident of Decatur can nominate an area to become a local historic district. The nomination report includes a physical description of the area, a statement of historical, cultural, and/or architectural significance, a map showing the district boundaries, a statement justifying the boundaries, and a photographs. (See Ch. 58 of the City Code for more information).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Please keep your comments constructive and conversational. We regret having to put a post like this up because according to our IP address matches such comments come from only 2-3 people. Let's agree to disagree in a civil manner. Thanks.

Name of Proposed Local Historic District

We understand there is a rumor that the new boundary nomination discussed in last night's HPC meeting was to name the historic district South Decatur instead of Oakhurst. First, they repeatedly referred to it as Oakhurst. Second, the reference in the 1987 survey specifically calls the area and recommended historic district Oakhurst. We believe the confusion comes from the fact that the survey is called the South Decatur Survey. The survey includes Winona Park, MAK, and other areas.

What is a local historic district?

Given the proposed expanded boundaries for a local historic district in the Oakhurst community, many may be wondering what is a local historic district. Here is the site for the National Parks Service: http://www.nps.gov/history/hps/workingonthepast/. Please feel free to submit questions here or contact Amanda Thompson with the City of Decatur directly. There will be public meetings. The Decatur Preservation Alliance also has information available.

As for the process for the local historic district, the flow chart for the process can be found on the City of Decatur website. http://www.decaturga.com/cgs_citygov_resboards_historic.aspx

"What do some 2,300 local historic districts have in common? In each one, a majority of its residents have decided they want to keep the look and feel of the place they call “home” by adopting a local preservation ordinance, then creating a local preservation commission to administer it. Local legislation is one of the best ways to protect the historic character of buildings, streetscapes, neighborhoods, and special landmarks from inappropriate alterations, new construction, and other poorly conceived work, as well as outright demolition."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Apparently we start from the beginning...

The HPC conducted a work session tonight, 9/11/2007. During the session there was a discussion of the boundaries for the local historic district. The Historic Preservation Commission stated that the area outlined in the historic survey conducted by Darlene Roth in 1987 would be considered the new boundaries. The addresses will be posted as soon as they have been compiled.

The nominating committee was taken by surprise that there would be an expansion of the boundaries for consideration. We will re-work the blog to reflect the changes as soon as possible.

Historic Preservation Commission Meeting Tonight

There is a meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission tonight, September 11, 2007 at 6:30pm at City Hall. There are no Certificates of Authority for the commission to consider so they will be discussing the boundaries for the proposed local historic district. The chair of the commission has the option to allow for public input regarding the boundaries.

As background, historic district boundaries must use the guidelines developed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior for determining historic district boundaries. A district must be a definable geographic area that can be distinguished from surrounding properties by changes such as density, scale, type, age, style of sites, buildings, structures, and objects or by documented differences in patterns of historic development.

The proposed boundaries include Mead Road to the East and Winter to the West. These streets were part of the original subdivisions for the Town of Oakhurst. Winter also has the physical boundary of the City Limits. Mead was said to have had a train stations called Meads Station which represents another historic boundary. West College is the North boundary and represents a physical boundary of the rail road. East Lake at Third Avenue represents a significant change in housing style. Mead Road runs to the commercial district and a one time was part of the 5-points intersection. Therefore, the boundary of the commercial district was used because of its importance in the anchor of history of the area. Additionally, this makes the district abute the Historic Landmark, Scottish Rite Hospital, which strengthens the historic value of both to the City of Decatur. Small areas of such as Leyden and Hood are included because they are completely surrounded by a concentration of historic resources. Drawing "donut holes" around non-historic resources within a district are not allowed.

Just because the nominators recommendation for boundaries was based on the above does not mean they will be accepted. The Historic Preservation Commission will make the final determination.

There are other older homes and homes of fine quality throughout the neighborhood. Exclusion from the boundaries does not mean your home or street is not worth perservation. However, the nominators, using the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's guidelines, found the proposed district to be a concentrated area of contiguous resources.

Spotlight on Oakhurst Baptist Church




Oakhurst Baptist Church is one of the founders of the Town of Oakhurst. At one time Oakhurst Baptist Church was located on the sprawling campus that now houses the AT&T training facility. Oakhurst was the first church in Oakhurst. While the original building burned in the fire that destroyed much of the original town center. Oakhurst Baptist re-built and continued to serve the community. The church gives much to the community and we are very pleased to have them in our neighborhood. The church and their building are one of the anchors of history in our community.
The first photo from the early 1930s and shows the church as it stands now. The second is an ealier photograph, believed to be prior to 1920 that shows a Vacation Bible School class.


Monday, September 10, 2007

How are the boundaries of a local historic district determined?

When defining local historic district boundaries you must use the guidelines developed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. A district must be a definable geographic area that can be distinguished from surrounding properties by changes such as density, scale, type, age, style of sites, buildings and documented differences in patterns of historic development.

Historic districts are typically a concentrated area of contiguous resources. Historic district boundaries should be based on three factors: historic significance, physical integrity of resources, and/or the location of significant geographic features.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Scenic America

http://www.scenic.org/pdfs/Fact%20Sheet%20-%20Beauty%20Benefits.pdf

Visitors and residents alike enjoy shopping at businesses with attractive signage and pleasant landscaping. Design guidelines can inspire and give direction to business owners and homeowners who want to maintain the aesthetic quality of downtowns. The payoff can be substantial: business owners can benefit from increased competitiveness, while the larger community can enjoy a more attractive area in which to live, walk, and shop.

Historic districts are designations conferred by local governments that allow design review for the protection of significant historic resources. Whether in a commercial center, residential neighborhood, or a broader landscape, historic districts recognize the need for a consistent architectural aesthetic to maintain the character of the designated area. The design review required by the local historic district can help to inspire the community and attract visitors back.
Why is it that we do not see the visitors for such events as the BBQ, Blues and Bluegrass return as patrons for our restaurants? This is the type of revitalization that local historic districts have been created to try and encourage.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Now You See Them, Soon You Won't

Now You See Them, Soon You Won’t, Discover disappearing architectural treasures
BY MILLIE ACEBAL ROUSSEAU


The bungalow was a popular house type with the growing middle class across America during the early twentieth century. Ample porches, wide eaves, local building materials and natural ventilation made the bungalow well suited to South Florida’s subtropical environment. In spite of their practicality, bungalows today are rapidly disappearing from the Miami landscape to make room for new developments.
Miami’s bungalows, with their wide porches, overhanging eaves, and natural ventilation, have a place in South Florida history. The homes, perfect for our subtropical environment, sprouted from 1914 to 1920 in Edgewater, Riverside, Shorecrest, Shenandoah, Little Havana, and Miami Shores. As Miami’s landscape is transformed, these bungalows are vanishing. To help to preserve them, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida opened a Miami Bungalows exhibit on May 18. “The exhibition came about because of the huge transformation taking place in Miami, specifically the downtown area,” said guest curator Jose Vazquez, assistant professor of architecture at Miami Dade College. “We wanted Miami to understand their architectural significance, and to document these structures that will be lost forever.” Thousands of bungalows remain throughout South Florida, many listed on Dade Heritage Trust’s Most Endangered Historic Sites. Developers are allowed to knock them down for new buildings, but the Trust managed to save one bungalow from demolition: Little Havana’s Hubbard-Alvarez house, which features a second half-story used as a bedroom/sleeping porch. The museum’s exhibition runs through September 9.
http://www.hmsf.org/
Residents that oppose the proposed historic district for Oakhurst have written your commissioners to tell them that the bungalow is not worth saving. Why? Apparently they feel they are not architecturally significant. Apparently they feel there are too many of them. That is what they contend. If you disagree, contact your commissioners. Support the local historic district.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Houston, we have a problem...

ISSUE IN HOUSTON
http://savethebungalows.org/FAQs.html
The Houston Heights:
In the first nine weeks of 2007, the amount of "residential demolition" permits sold for the three zip codes that comprise the greater Houston Heights area was 65. THAT EQUALS A DEMOLITION A DAY. When new homes first began appearing in the Heights, they replaced buildings that were falling down or they went onto empty lots and they fit in well and respected the scale of the neighborhood. Nowadays we see perfectly livable and historically significant homes disappear simply because a huge house is more profitable for the speculator. More than half of the original housing stock in the Heights is already gone and Other areas, such as Garden Oaks, Lindale and Eastwood, are following the same path.

Urban neighborhoods that lack strong and consistent deed restrictions are experiencing (or may soon experience) significant tear down of early 20th Century housing and the subsequent building of lot-covering houses and townhomes. Many of the older homes are perfectly livable or restorable but they are demolished because they are not huge. The new lot covering houses have a dramatic effect on neighborhood property values, taxes, neighborhood stability, historic preservation, urban tree canopy, soil permeability (flooding), and a number of environmental issues. Access to affordable urban housing is clearly affected as well.

Sound familiar? Do we let it get to this point before we take action? We are already losing one home per month on average. Will the continuation of that level of demolition make a difference in the look and feel of our neighborhood? Will we lose the sense of place that the historic bungalows give us? Find out more. Support the local historic district.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Local Historic Designation Is Worth It

Reader Opinion Piece
Local Historic Designation Is Worth It
by Deborah Mook

Shortly after moving into our Oakhurst home, I spent a day hunkered down in the Decatur public library, researching the history of the house. I was enthralled by the fact that we live in
a home that has housed several generations and has seen so much cultural change. I discovered a 1915 plot map of the East Lake Drive Land and Improvement Company showing the newly
created 15th district of the town of Oakhurst. I also found many of the old deeds. The first one shows the East Lake Drive Land and Improvement Company selling the property to Mr. J.H.
Phillips for the sum of $600 on November 1, 1915. The land was sold subject to restrictions which were in keeping with that time in history, and which I found fascinating. Let me just say
that I was astounded to see in writing that our property was touched from the outset by one of the darker sides of US history. I will use this as an example someday when I must explain
racism to my daughter. For me, this was a stark example that the neighborhood history is not always golden, but that it can really personalize and dramatize some larger lessons.

The character of Oakhurst is charming and meaningful. With one, and soon to be two, exceptions, my street is a tree-lined street of bungalows, a celebration of this architectural style.
This charming procession of bungalows is worth protecting. Currently, it is too convenient for developers to replace old houses with ones that change the character. Out-of-scale
houses command bigger profits but ruin the aesthetic appeal of the neighborhood. On our street there is one out-of-scale property and another under construction. Another half dozen
houses could be torn down and replaced with out-of-scale houses. At that point, the neighborhood will no longer look like a fitting row of bungalows but more like a block of town houses. Not only will the neighborhood no longer resemble its past, it will not be as attractive.

Obviously there are some who oppose the proposal for historic designation. Some of our neighbors are homeowners with genuine concerns which should be respected. However, there are others of the “opposition” whose motives I question. Firstly, some unknown fraction of folks with opposing signs in their yards have said that they don’t care about the issue and just put the signs there because they were asked to. Secondly, I fear that some opponents are developers or contractors whose motivation is purely economical. Intown areas, including Oakhurst, are ripe for the development picking. While people have the right to pursue their livelihoods, a genuine cry for help on the part of residents for protection of their neighborhood should trump an individual’s attempt to make a profit.

A recent letter to the Oakhurst Leaflet described the bungalow as an insignificant architectural building type. I beg to differ. The bungalow is the essence of the American dream: at the
outset, it created the opportunity for people who didn’t have a lot of resources to own their own home, and one that was beautiful and of which they could be proud. The style elevated the dignity of the working-class person; now it was not just the rich who could afford to own a beautiful home. The philosophy behind the style is that it is simple, handmade, personal, accessible to everyone, and elevates the human spirit through architecture. The bungalows are individualized by architectural and design elements, such as the Japanese-style motif incorporated into the roof line of our house. It would be a travesty to condemn these
beautiful homes to the trash heap in order for an individual to make a buck. Another sentiment I hear is that people don’t want “to be told what to do.” While this reaction is understandable on a visceral level, it doesn’t stand up to reality. Politely complying with rules is what being a part of a larger society is all about. We have limits on how fast we can drive, we must cut our grass regularly, our children must go to school on certain days and times. We chose to live with these rules because they form a framework within which we can proceed with our lives. Given the need to protect neighborhoods from destructive infill, we are asking to create an additional framework for our protection. LHD designation provides us with protection such that our historic neighborhood will continue to look like the neighborhood that made us want to live here.

Lastly, I will mention the impact of rising property values on our elderly neighbors. I am not certain that LHD will cause property values to rise any more than they already are; no one can
predict this. But, however it happens, rising property taxes do represent a hardship for the elderly. This problem can be addressed through legislation specifically directed at it. There is
a proposal, for example, that it might be possible to place a cap on the property taxes due from these neighbors. Solutions such as this should be explored, and this problem does not necessitate abandoning the quest for LHD protection. I do not suggest living in the past. It is possible to renovate existing homes, and even build new ones within a framework that preserves the character of the neighborhood. If my husband and I stay in the neighborhood, it is our intention to renovate our house to add more space and modern conveniences. We advocate LHD knowing that we will have to go through the process of getting a certificate of appropriateness
and renovate within the framework we are requesting. The additional steps are worth it if our neighborhood is protected.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Who can nominate an area to become a local historic district?

Who can nominate an area to become a local historic district? Any member of the Historic Preservation Commission or resident of Decatur can nominate an area to become a local historic district. The nomination report includes a physical description of the area, a statement of historical, cultural, and/or architectural significance, a map showing the district boundaries, a statement justifying the boundaries, and a photographs. (See Ch. 58 of the City Code for more information).

In a Local Historic District, the State of Georgia and the City of Decatur require ALL
material changes be reviewed against the specified Local Historic District Ordinances and
Design Guidelines and be issued a Certificate of Exemption or Certificate of
Appropriateness prior to performing work.

A Certificate of Exemption is an administrative review and approval of minor repairs and
installations or other projects described in the Local Historic District Ordinances and
Design Guidelines.

A Certificate of Appropriateness is granted for new construction, demolitions and
renovations projects after review and acceptance by the Historic Preservation Commission
as specified in the Local Historic District Ordinances and Design Guidelines.

Projects Requiring Review include:
New Construction
Additions
Demolition or Relocation
Alterations to Existing Properties; such as
• Doorways
• Windows
• Roofs
• Exterior Cladding
• Porches
• Fences and Walls
• Driveways
• Vegetation

See the following for flow charts of major renovation process now, compared to under local historic district. http://www.decaturga.com/client_resources/historic%20preservation/local%20district%20materials/local%20historic%20district%20processes1.pdf

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Notes from the work session for the Planning Commission

The infill task force, which was formed 11/2005, submitted reports to the City Commissioners. In August 2007, (yes nearly 2 years later) the Planning Commission worked on what would be submitted to the City Commission. Here are some notes regarding that meeting:

Zoning ordinances are a challenge because it applies to the entire city, which includes neighborhoods that are vastly different from each other in character. That is why the minority report used a contextual based approach, so that scale relates to the surrounding buildings. But the difficulties in applying that approach is that it’s a lot of work for the city to administer, it’s extra work for the property owner to get height surveys of the surrounding properties and residents feel that they have the right to have a two-story house.

It was made clear in the planning commission meeting that the majority report recommendations would have allowed even taller homes (up to 42 feet was the City's estimation). They also tested the minority report recommendation by using an existing (anonymous) street in Oakhurst to see what could be built. The resulting house could be 29 feet tall.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Greenville Historic Preservation Quiz

I found this particular piece applicable because so many people I speak to do not have any understanding of what a local historic district does for a community. The answers to some of the questions are not the same for the existing local historic districts for Decatur. It is important that everyone understand what a local historic district is and is not. Local historic district does not stop new construction or renovation. It is an overlay that preserve the local historic character while allowing for development and growth. Enjoy.

Take the Greensboro Historic District Quiz!
People react in different ways when I tell them I live in a historic district. They often say, "I love old houses," or "I hate old houses." One nice lady, when I told her I served on the Historic District Commission, kindly shared her opinion that "you people are crazy." And she is a homeowner in one of the districts. A lot of people object to the degree of regulation in the districts. But when I ask which regulations they don't like, it often turns out that they don't actually know what the regulations are. So I thought it would be fun to offer a little online quiz about what actually is permitted -- and what's not -- in Greensboro's locally-designated historic districts. If you're a historic district hater, or just a skeptic, take the quiz to see how much you actually know. If you like, post your answers in the comments. (No fair peeking at the Historic District Guidelines!)UPDATE: Answers are now posted!
GREENSBORO HISTORIC DISTRICT QUIZ
1. All of Greensboro's historic districts are regulated by the Greensboro Historic District Commission (HDC).
False. Greensboro has a lot of neighborhoods that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, such as the A&T College Historic District, the Bennett College Historic District, Irving Park, Guilford College, and the White Oak New Town historic district (to name just a few), none of which are regulated at all. Only Fisher Park, College Hill, and the Aycock Historic District are locally-designated districts which fall under the jurisdiction of the HDC.

2 .If you live in one of the locally-designated historic districts, your house colors must be approved by the HDC.
False. Although the Historic District Program Manual and Design Guidelines contain some helpful advice for those wishing to paint their houses in an historically-accurate way, owners are free to paint their houses any way they like.
3. It is not permitted to cover original wood siding with vinyl or aluminum siding in the locally-designated historic districts.
True.
4. New construction in the locally-designated districts must use historically appropriate materials; new products such as fiber-cement siding are not permitted.
False. Many new materials such as fiber-cement siding (also called hardi-plank) are permitted in new construction, although they are not considered appropriate as replacement materials for original historic materials such as wood, brick, or stone.
5. New houses in the locally-designated districts must be designed and built to look like the houses surrounding them.
False. Although new construction in the historic districts is required to be compatible with surrounding buildings in terms of size, setbacks, and roof forms, most new houses built there would never be mistaken for old houses; in fact, it's considered desirable by many preservationists that new houses shouldn't "fool" the public by looking too much like old ones.
6 It is not considered appropriate to paint previously unpainted brick or masonry in the locally-designated districts.
True. One reason for this is that once brick is painted, it can never really be unpainted again, and thus never restored to its original condition.
7 Prefabricated outbuildings such as sheds are not permitted in the locally-designated districts.
False. Many prefabricated sheds are considered appropriate and can be used, although metal sheds and those with gambrel roofs ("dutch barn" style) are not.
8 Large trees may not be cut down in the locally-designated districts without permission from the HDC.
True. The tree canopies in the historic districts are an important character-defining feature of the neighborhoods. When the HDC grants permission to take down a mature tree, it often requires the homeowner to plant another one like it.
9 Major interior renovations require permission from the HDC to insure historical appropriateness.
False. Interior renovations are not regulated by HDC.
10 Chain-link fences are prohibited in the locally-designated districts.
False. Chain-link fences are permitted at the rear of houses, but not in front or side yards.
11 You must receive permission from the HDC when planting trees, shrubs, or hedges.
False. Plant away freely.
12 Historic buildings in the historic districts are protected from demolition.
False. If a property owner wishes to demolish a building, the HCD only has power to delay the demolition for 365 days.
13 The tight regulation in the locally-designated districts drives away investment.
False. Several studies have shown that property values in Greensboro's historic districts have risen at a faster rate than that of the city as a whole over the past 20 years.
14 The zoning restrictions in the locally-designated districts are more stringent than those in modern suburban developments.
False. Many things are permitted in the historic districts, such as chain-link fences, prefabricated outbuildings, and unregulated landscaping, which are prohibited or controlled by restrictive covenants in many new neighborhoods. In fact, in some new developments, the neighborhood association has the right to remove items from your property which the association considers unsightly or inappropriate; this is not true in the historic districts.
Furthermore, Greensboro's historic districts all contain a variety of zoning types, including single and multifamily residential, office, business, and retail. Most new developments are restricted to single-family housing, often with minimum square-footage requirements.
15 The people who live in the locally-designated districts are a little bit nutty.
True. But so are the people who don't.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Quote from National Trust for Historic Preservation President

“The pace of teardowns has amounted to an orgy of irrational destruction. Teardowns spread through a community like a cancer. I believe they represent the biggest threat to America's older neighborhoods since the heyday of urban renewal and interstate highway construction. Communities must realize that they aren't helpless in the face of teardowns. They must develop a vision for the future of their community...and put in place mechanisms to ensure that their vision is not compromised.” Richard Moe, President, National Trust for Historic Preservation June 28, 2006

Thursday, August 30, 2007

What is a bungalow anyway?

But what is a bungalow anyway? Where does the term come from? And what is so great about this architectural style?

Most dictionaries are explicit: a bungalow is a one- or one-and- a-half story dwelling. Good enough, except that since the period when most bungalows were constructed – roughly 1880 to 1930 in the United States – literally every type of house has at one time been called a bungalow. Two-story houses built on the grounds of hotels are still called bungalows, for example. And to further muddy the definition, the great Southern California architect Charles Sumner Greene went out of his way to call his Gamble house (1909) in Pasadena, Calif., a bungalow. Instead, the Gamble house is a sprawling two-story residence with a third-floor pool room.

A bungalow’s distinction is its low profile. There are no vertical bungalows even though in a few cities such as Sacramento, Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, the basically horizontal house type is raised on high foundations. Promotional literature in the early 20th century almost always noted the chief purpose of the bungalow: to place most of the living spaces on one floor. The advantages are obvious–the absence of a second story simplifies the building process. Utilities can be installed more easily than in a two-story house. Safety is at a premium because, in the event of fire, windows as well as doors offer easy escape. Best of all, the bungalow allows staircases to be eliminated, a boon for the elderly and also for the homemaker, who can carry out household tasks without a lot of trips up the stairs.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

At the turn of the century bungalows took America by storm!

At the turn of the century bungalows took America by storm. These small houses, some costing as little as $900, helped fulfill many Americans’ wishes for their own home, equipped with all the latest conveniences. Central to the bungalow’s popularity was the idea that simplicity and artistry could harmonize in one affordable house. The mania for bungalows marked a rare occasion in which serious architecture was found outside the realm of the rich. Bungalows allowed people of modest means to achieve something they had long sought: respectability. With its special features – style, convenience, simplicity, sound construction, and excellent plumbing – the bungalow filled more than the need for shelter. It provided fulfillment of the American dream.

The bungalow was practical, and it symbolized for many the best of the good life. On its own plot of land, with a garden, however small, and a car parked out front, a bungalow provided privacy and independence. To their builders and owners, bungalows meant living close to nature, but also with true style.

Sounds like an idea, a sense of place, a historic mark we should protect.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The question of the goal of the local historic district is often asked

The question of the goal of the local historic district is often asked. I found this as part of a local historic district near Pasadena. It sums up the goals pretty nicely:


a) To promote community pride and unity by recognizing that the area is important as a historic resource.
b) To promote the preservation and enhancement of the historic character and architectural integrity of the district.
c) To assist homeowners and others with restoration, alteration, or new construction to eliminate unnecessary demolition, destruction and neglect and to ensure that the architectural qualities of the district are maintained and preserved.
d) To protect the single-family character of this neighborhood.
e) To enhance residential property values within the district.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Local Historic District Goals as stated for Akron, OH Historic District

Historic preservation is a continuum of choices affecting the landscape and buildings. This continuum includes maintenance of features that are historicially, architecturally, and culturally significant. Contemporary use can be achieved while retaining distinctive features.
When we develop land and build structures, preservation adds economic value. Preservation requires the establishment and adherence to a set of standards. The cost of adhering to a set of standards is reasonable considering that good design elements add economic value to the larger community.

Minimum standards established by the community in conjunction with the City, relating to aesthetics, appropriateness, and architectural compatibility, would be enforced in conditional zoning or zoning overlay of local historic district. In a historic district, changes in structures would be permitted to occur only when such changes are consistent with the preservation goals of the neighborhood that has established an historic district, unless health or safety concerns require an exception.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What are you really trying to protect?

Yet another comment from an earlier post...
"Further, as one of your earlier posts pointed out, infill is not occurring in the proposed district at the rate it is occurring in other parts of the City or Oakhurst (providing the exact addresses in which infill has occurred in the proposed district would be of assistance in this debate). So, what is it you are really trying to protect? "

As the nominators for the proposed local historic district we think that we have done a good job on this blog explaining what we are really trying to protect. The nomination for the proposed Oakhurst local historic district was made in an effort to preserve the unique local character of the neighborhood. The historic elements of the neighborhood have been documented in historic surveys.

It is true that the majority of demolitions in the City of Decatur are in the Oakhurst area. It is true that the boundaries of the proposed district have fewer demolitions than the surrounding Oakhurst area. These facts support our assertion that the proposed district remains the most intact area of Oakhurst and represents the historic settling of the area. Therefore, it is the area in most dire need of protection while we still have something to protect.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I for one moved to this neighborhood for the diversity and "character" that such diversity provides.

"I for one moved to this neighborhood for the diversity and "character" that such diversity provides. If Oakhurst is designated as a LHD, the diversity of Oakhurst and such character is likely to be jeopardized, which presents a real and valid concern for many of our neighbors who truly value diversity. "

This is a comment from an earlier post. It is not true that LHD will jeopardize the diversity of Oakhurst. The majority of residents we speak to in and outside of the proposed local historic district state their number one concern is losing the character of the neighborhood. The second most frequent concern is losing the diversity of the neighborhood. As posted on an earlier post "Neighborhood character is expressed in at least two distinctive elements: the physical landscape and the social dynamic. Many inner city neighborhoods have the physical building blocks present to be successful, sustainable communities that provide homes for residents throughout their life cycles. Single-family homes come in small, medium and large sizes and price ranges." This mirrors the concerns of the neighborhood. The first and most important element of the local historic district is to preserve the historic landscape - meaning architecture, view from the street, set backs, sidewalks, etc. This is the first impression, if you will, of the character. As mentioned in another previous post older neighborhoods that have a local historic district do a better job of preserving the mix of people in their neighborhood. Why? Because there is a variety of single-family homes from small, medium, and large that have a variety of price ranges. This provides housing for people throughout their life, through their many cycles of life. If every home was replaced by a new home priced at $600,000 we would lose that very diversity. Studies support that older neighborhoods with a local historic district do a better job reflecting the racial and socio-economic mix of the community at large. New construction tends to segregate both racially and socio-economically.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What is neighborhood character??

Neighborhood character is expressed in at least two distinctive elements: the physical landscape and the social dynamic. Many inner city neighborhoods have the physical building blocks present to be successful, sustainable communities that provide homes for residents throughout their life cycles. Single-family homes come in small, medium and large sizes and price ranges. Duplexes and small apartment buildings are sprinkled in, encouraging today's renters to become tomorrow's home purchasers. Nearby commercial structures offer the potential for locating neighborhood services within walking distance. Other physical elements can enhance the area - street trees and wide sidewalks for shaded walking, varied architecture for an interesting streetscape. Neighborhood character is not solely created through the physical landscape. The people who live in a neighborhood provide the flavor and attitude for that section of the city. The flavor can be ethnic, provided by long-time residents or created simply because a preferred lifestyle is more easily accomplished in that particular physical landscape.

Currently the only tool available for protecting our neighborhood’s unique historic character is local historic district. We welcome any comments and/or suggestions for other methods that you believe are currently available. If they are not currently available let’s talk about the time frame for implementing new suggestions.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Is there any reason we should not expect benefits and success in Oakhurst as a result of LHD?

Local Historic Districts have been successful in preserving historic character while allowing growth in West End, Castleberry Hill, and in Decatur including the MAK Historic District right down the street. Is there any reason we should not expect similar benefits and success in Oakhurst?

Oakhurst, like all of the City of Decatur, has a lot going for it. It has a government that took the time to plan well in advance so that it could become the kind of place people want to live. The community that lives here are proud, social and giving, which makes for a nice place to live. We have wonderful architectural character. All of these factors indicate that Local Historic District could successfully protect the historic character of the neighborhood while allow growth and retaining diversity while being economically sustainable.

The overwhelming majority of the people I have heard from in this neighborhood are concerned about losing the historic character of our neighborhood. Unfortunately, many people are being told that LHD will not allow them to take advantage of the maximum square footage allowed under current zoning and/or that current zoning is sufficient to protect the unique historic character of the neighborhood. Both of these assertions are false. To make matters worse it appears that the new zoning will actually allow for bigger houses and more potential for loss of homes in Oakhurst.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Outside of Local Historic District designation, what can be done to make sure that we do not lose over 100years of history?

The complete destruction of the Beacon Hill neighborhood has taught us that by destroying the housing of a community you eventually destroy the history because there is no longer any representation of said community. Outside of Local Historic District designation, what can be done to make sure that the nearly 100 years of historic character of this area is not lost?

Under the current zoning for the City of Decatur the only method of preseving the historic character is Local Historic District. Under any currently proposed zoning for the City of Decatur the only method of preserving the historic character is Local Historic District.

Other cities, including the City of Atlanta, are attempting to preserve the character of a neighborhood through stricter zoning and other new overlays. However, we have not found any that have been in place sufficient time to present any results of their efforts.

Oakhurst has lost approximately or estimated at 1 home per month to demolition over the past five years. We are seeing the impact of that level of development on the character of our neighborhood. To consider methods outside of Local Historic District at this time would mean more delays and more loss. Just consider that changes to infill zoning has taken nearly 2 years and is yet to be implemented. What would your street look like if you lost 20 houses to demolition?

Monday, August 20, 2007

The multitude of flyers makes the question of how LHD will affect property values confusing

There have been multiple flyers circulated to residents lately. One flyer states that Local Historic District can make my property value go down. Another flyer states that Local Historic District will make my property values increase and therefore increase my property taxes. Which statement is accurate.

First, yes your taxes will increase if your property values increase. Most residents purchase their homes in hopes that the value will increase in an effort to increase their equity and personal wealth. At the very least we do not want our investment to decrease.

The question of whether Local Historic District increases or decreases property values is a difficult question to answer because there are so many factors that can impact property values. There are a number of studies listed on this blog site throughout June and July and we encourage you to read them all. Our research has shown that of all the studies we could find there are about 80% that say Local Historic District is good for property values and 15% that show some negative impact. The other studies indicate that the affect may be more neutral because Local Historic District is often sought once a neighborhood becomes desirable and then experiences threats to the historic character. We did find one study that stated that Local Historic Districts are protected from downfalls in the real estate market.

There are numerous studies that indicate that maintaining the character of the neighborhood is good for property values. Wide variations in housing architectural styles or wide variances in the look of a home from the street make an area less desirable. It loses its curb appeal. This is not to say there can not be any individuality or variance in homes and does not endorse the monolithic styling of many new neighorhoods. This is not to say that all homes should be the same size. A 1200 square foot home and 3600 square foot home can reside side by side without violating either the principals of archtectural similarity or look from the street. This harmony is not easy but can maintain the unique character of a neighborhood, maintain diversity in housing size and price, maintain diversity in residents, and maintain consistent property value increases.

Local Historic District is not just about preserving or increasing property values. Historic preservation is a program just out of its infancy when compared to preservation of other resources. In the beginning what was thought important to preserve was old, largely internationally signficant sights. Many of them were related to wars. Next came the preservation of the homes or scenes from the life of someone nationally famous. Why? Because a place says a lot about what makes a person and give you a sense of time and place that words on a plaque can not convey. Next came the preservation of events or people that were not so old. Because as we become a more populous nation we began to lose our resources rapidly. Now there is great value place on areas that still convey the sense of place of ordinary lives. We live in such a place. Oakhurst represents the defining architecture for Decatur as it entered its biggest building boom. It also clearly illustrates the transition from rail to trolley to car and back to rail. This is a valuable resource that many resident feel we need to preserve. Every home that is needlessly torn down removes some of that history. We do not advocate no demolition or no new construction or no renovation. Rather we advocate smart demolition, smart development, smart new construction and smart renovation that provides a win-win for our neighborhood.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Under current zoning do we as a community have any right to input regarding the various commercial properties?

There are a number of large tracts of property zoned commercial within the proposed Local Historic District boundaries. It is well known that most are being strongly considered for sale and redevelopment. Clearly the type and quality of the development will impact the majority of the residents in Oakhurst. Under current zoning do we as a community have any right to input regarding the type of development? If we were a Local Historic District would we have more input?

Boys and Girls Club is considering relocating. The zoning for this 5.5 acres+ lot is R60. R60 Zoning uses without public hearing include single-family dwellings, elementary, middle, and secondary schools, public utilities, public buildings, churches, and family personal care homes. There is sufficient room for a planned residential development. Under the proposed new infill guidelines the homes can get progressively taller.

Thankful Baptist Church is zoned institution and comprises 3.82 acres+
Institutional zoning allows for Churches and other places of worship, associated single-family, two-family and multiple-family dwellings, colleges, seminaries, related professional offices, public and private schools, nursery schools, an small business, clinics, medical and dental offices, boarding and rooming houses, and clubs. Maximum building height allowed is 45 feet.

Bell South was purchased by AT&T and they are re-evaluating their real estate holdings. This 7.85 acre+ land area is zoned C-1. Maximum building height is 40 feet and three stories, minimum set back is zero. Set back next to residential is only 10 feet side yard and 30 feet rear line. Uses for C-1 Local include retail shops, appliance sales and service, drugstores, and other sales and service establishments. Food, furniture and hardware stores, clinics, medical office buildings, professional office buildings, and financial institutions are also allowed. None of these uses require a public hearing.

The commercial property located at 636 East Lake Drive in the Oakhurst commercial district is 2.11 acres of C-1 property too. Similarly, the small commercial areas located at Mead Road and West College Avenue (.25 acre) and at Feld Avenue and West College Avenue (.25) are zoned C-1 local. It is also rumored that Marta is considering selling their parking lot between West College Avenue and Park Place for development (.75 acre).

Development of all of these properties could have an immediate and direct impact on your property value and enjoyment of your home. Within a local historic district a public hearing would be required even for the approved uses under the zoning laws. That would give you the opportunity to protect your home and your largest investment. Outside of a local historic district you do not have that luxury. The only time a public hearing is necessary is when a variance is requested or to change the zoning. Even so, you have less consideration than you would under a LHD overlay.

The development of a local historic district provides recognition for an area and attracts visitors from the immediate surrounding communities and from across the country. This improved visibility makes commercial development within a local historic district a lower risk investment. Most communities experience a boom in the development of their commercial areas once a local historic district has been established. The improved development continues to improve the visibility and provides support for new business to stay and thrive. Commercial areas that have struggled because the immediate density of population was not sufficient to support more development find the designation expands development. It improves the overall available services, number of jobs, and tax base for a community.

What are the dates of the meetings with the City to discuss the Guidelines?

The last we checked, Friday, August 10th. HPC's input on the guidelines presented to the HPC by the community have not been received. We understand that the original dates for August, starting with August 21 have been cancelled. We will provide the new dates as soon as possible.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Studies show that LHDs sustain diversity and racial mix of a community

Studies show that Local Historic Districts sustain diversity and racial mix of a community compared to more traditional suburban communities that are mostly segregated. With the rapid level of infill construction of home priced $600,000 - $1,000,000, will we be able to retain that diversity?

Retaining diversity, avoiding the displacement of our elderly, poor and even middle class residents, and providing affordable housing within a community are concerns for any community that finds themselves with great demand for available land and therefore rapidly increases in land values.

It is true that there is a published paper "The Economic Power of Restoration" found at www.wisconsinhistory.org/hp/smartgrowth/economic_power_of_restoration.pdf. It states that historic districts reflect the diversity of a community unlike the majority of urban and suburban subdivisions that tend to be racially segregated. Why? Because a local historic district encourages a variety of housing sizes and therefore a variety of housing prices. Given the current land value in Decatur it is unrealistic to think we will easily provide affordable housing, but lhd can help us to maintain our diversity for what we hope is many more years.

Many of our neighbors can not afford homes being priced from $600,000 - $1,000,000 in our neighborhood even if they sell their own homes for $300,000-$400,000 with 100% equity. Will that mean that continued infill development will mean a loss of diversity for Oakhurst? Only time will tell for certain.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What is historic about Oakhurst? What is your basis for nominating the district?

This was a comment left on another post.
What is historic about Oakhurst? What is your basis for nominating the district?

The nominating form contains some of the history surrounding the proposed district. It was developed during the time that Oakhurst was its own town. The proposed boundary has a consistent bungalow style and is relatively intact. The South Decatur historical survey conducted by Darlene Roth in 1987 was very thorough and was included as an index to later surveys for 1989 and 1990. In the survey from 1987 Ms. Roth states that "What Oakhurst represents for the City of Decatur is a pattern of housing -- scale, materials, and styles -- which won out over other available possibilities during the 1910s and especially the 1920s." She goes on to say "The Oakhurst areas were the most populous in Decatur through the 1920s and it was the Oakhurst pattern of down-scaled houses, rather than the Adams-King's Highway pattern of upscaleed houses which has continued to dominate Decatur architecture."

Location of Oakhurst "The skeletal outline of these related developments (Oakhurst, East End, and part of Greater Decatur) is visible on the 1928 USGS topographic map for Decatur: the houses clearly follow the line of the Georgia railroad and the South Decatur trolley line".

Why is the time period important "The late 1910s and the 1920s were the most significant decade for Decatur development"

Why preserve "Oakhurst and related sections (Greater Decatur and East End) represent what Decatur was becoming and was to become when these parts were annexed to the city in 1915 and 1916. After Oakhurst, the moderately scaled, modestly decorated, cosily nestled suburban house was the norm for Decatur"

How to preserve "The local ordinance could be used, with greater or lesser restrictions, to guide new construction in the historic areas, to recommend compatible alterations to contribuing properties, within the historic areas, to deter unnecessary demolitions, and to increase the local respect and pride in Decatur's historic housing stock -- a primary municipal asset."

The full 1987 report is available. Just request it via e-mail at preserveoakhurst@gmail.com.