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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

QUESTION regarding comparison to Druid Hills Historic District

Bob posted the following question under another post:

"The Druid Hills neighborhood, which contains some of the oldest homes in the city, only requires historical accuracy on the front of the home. Why is it that we are considering stricter standards than one of the oldest neighborhoods in Atlanta, a neighborhood that contans homes designed by and lived in by some of the most well known people of the city, and of the world? Requiring only the front of the home to meet historical standards seems that it would achieve any goals considered by a preservationist point of view while allowing people to actually create a home that meets the needs of a modern way of life. "

We are not experts on the Druid Hill Historic District, but this is what we know...
In 1966 the National Historic Preservation Act Passed
In 1975 Druid Hills Parks & Parkways were listed on the National Register of Historic Places
In 1979 Druid Hills community was listed on the National Register of Historic Places
In 1982 Druid Hills was designated a Historic & Cultural Conservation area
In 1989 Protection was heightened to a Landmark District
In 1994 DeKalb County designated it as a Historic District

The design guidelines read as follows:

The primary goal for the community is to preserve the historic and visual integrity so they continue to convey a sense of time and place associated with periods of historic development. The historic relationships of buildings to each other, their sites, lot layouts, and landscapes are important.

The primary goal for individual historic resources is to preserve the integrity of each surviving historic structure, lot layout pattern, and site. Design guidelines for alterations should focus on appropriate rehabilitation procedures that will retain those character-defining features that distinguish the historic resource while allowing for appropriate development. These guidelines should be congruent with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings.

Design Review Objective - When making a material change to a structure that is in view from a public right-of-way, a higher standard is required to ensure that design changes are compatible with the architectural style of the structure and retain character-defining features. When a proposed material change to a structure is not in view from the public-right-way, the Preservation Commission may review the project with a less strict standard so as to allow the owner more flexibility. Such changes, however, shall not have a substantial adverse effect on the overall architectural character of the structure.

The standard for design review appears to be as viewed from the right-of-way and does not preclude review for the rest of the home. The "viewed from the right-of-way" standard is actually the proposed standard for the Oakhurst design guidelines without application to that which is not viewed from the right-of-way. That would indicate that our proposed standard is actually less than Druid Hills and more in keeping with your suggestion that the front of the home be used as the standard.

Neither Druid Hills or the proposed Oakhurst guidelines state that a home must meet historic accuracy. On the contrary the goal is historic integrity. The purpose is to allow homes to change and expand and even use modern materials.

As for the ability to expand a home the local historic district does not regulate the size of your home. The City of Decatur in-fill zoning laws make that determination. There are examples of significant additions to homes in the MAK district that illustrate what level of expansion can be done in a local historic district with design review for all four sides of a home. Photographs and addresses for such will be posted as a separate post.

Design guideline input has been provided to the Historic Preservation Commission. We anticipate they will have a draft ordinance and design guidelines available for the community in late August.


Wilson said...

If zoning laws control the size of the home and local historic district does not, what protection does it provide?

Colleen said...

This may be a similar question as posed by Wilson. The One-Oakhurst flyer states that LHD was created to prevent McMansions from infiltrating the neighborhood. Is that true?

The flyer also states that house size (height & square footage) is already addressed by our zoning laws. Is that true?

Anonymous said...

If zoning laws control the size of the home and local historic district does not, what protection does it provide?

The LHD overlay will provide guidance to home owners and property developers so that renovations and expansions of older homes as well as new construction are designed in such a way as to enhance rather than detract from the historic nature of the block face.

State law specifically prohibits the use of LHD overlays to restrict a property owner’s right of use. As an example, if a home in Oakhurst outside an LHD would be allowed under the city zoning law to be expanded to two and a half stories and 3600 square feet, a home inside of an Oakhurst LHD could not be prohibited from being expanded to the same two and a half stories and 3600 square feet.

The difference in these two cases is that inside of the LHD the expansion would need to be reviewed and approved by the Historic Preservation Commission while outside of the LHD no such review would be required. This review process provides the historic district with a level of protection from devaluing intrusion by ensuring that material changes made to older homes and new construction are done in a way that complements the existing structures.

This may be a similar question as posed by Wilson. The One-Oakhurst flyer states that LHD was created to prevent McMansions from infiltrating the neighborhood. Is that true?

Many of the new homes that have been built in Oakhurst offer good examples of how building without regard to size and mass compromises the architectural value of the surrounding homes. One of the most valuable benefits of the design review process is the ability to subjectively consider how any one particular material change will impact the historic nature of the surrounding homes. A new structure, two and a half stories high, may look perfectly fine placed between one set of historic houses, but placed between a different pair, the same exact house may look out of scale and have a negative impact on the adjacent historic homes. An LHD will not prevent new homes being built from being large, but the perceived mass and scale of each new building will be reviewed to prevent large new homes from detracting from the value and historical significance of the surrounding protected historic homes.

The flyer also states that house size (height & square footage) is already addressed by our zoning laws. Is that true?

The temporary infill guidelines currently in place address height and square footage as well as lot coverage. These guidelines were adopted as a temporary measure and will at some point be replaced with more or less stringent zoning laws. The City of Decatur website has more information.

Bob Reno said...

Let's face it, MAK Historic District was created in response to the Agnes Scott Parking Deck. Please, do not hide behind the phrase "subjectively consider." Attempting to create a historic district by its very nature is anything but subjective. Be honest, "view from a public right of way" is different in a neighborhood with front yards 20 feet deep than in a neighborhood with front yards an acre deep. Who will decide if renovations or new construction "enhance" "the historic nature of the block face?" Will they be architectural historians or simply my neighbors--who may be qualified to teach school, publish photographs, or nurse--but does that qualify one to determine answers with regard to architecture or construction?

Kindred said...


Your neighbors will not be the ones who make the determination regarding the architecture of your home. The Historic Preservation Commission makes those types of determinations. In order to serve on the commission you must have a background and education in construction, architecture, or historic preservation. This is a fact as stated in the City of Decatur ordinance.

As stated before, Druid Hills application of historic district guidelines apply to all four sides of the home. They are simply applied less strigently to the sides and back than the front.

As viewed from the right of way is very different on smaller lots. But, the true test is to see how that has been applied in the MAK district. There are many homes that have additions and renovations. They can be seen from the right of way, but they fit in with the surrounding homes. There are also many homes with additions that you can not really tell they have been changed. That is because they fit so well into the surrounding architecture.

Our small lots mean that a poorly developed home next door has an immediate impact on the value and my enjoyment of my home.

Janice said...

Are you saying there is absolutely nothing historic about the MAK district?

Jackson said...

Here is a watered down version of the historic significance of the MAK district.
"The neighborhood was Decatur's first residential subdivision, developed by John Mason and Poleman Weekes who purchased the property in 1907. Local architect Leila Ross Wilburn designed many of the homes for Mason and Weekes.

The MAK neighborhood offers excellent examples of the American Craftsman style homes that were popular during the first three decades of the 20th century. The neighborhood sought listing as Decatur's first local historic district in order to establish design guidelines and a design review to protect its unique character. It is the sight of many movie and television filming locations, most recently the television series "October Road" starring Tom Beringer, Geoff Stults and Laura Prepon and the 2007 movie "Stomp the Yard" starring Columbus Short."

What Bob says is somewhat true. The demolition of several homes and construction of a parking garage for Agnes Scott was the "bad actor" that made the residents concerned that developers could encroach on their neighborhood and destroy its unique historic character. I have similar concerns about what will happen to Thankful Baptist Church and their large parking lot. What will happen to the BellSouth property now that AT&T is re-evaluating their real estate holdings? What will happen at the Marta Parking Lot on Park Place that they are re-developing? What will happen to the Boys and Girls Club now that they are considering moving to a new location? The resident's do not automatically get a say in what happens just as MAK residents did not get a say on the parking deck before they have the local designation. With lhd designation we would be guaranteed a public hearing. Unlike Bob I find my community to be charming in it's unique historic character and I enjoy hearing all of the stories related to the history of the community. I think the community can grow and develop within lhd as other communities have.

Mark Haggerty said...


"This may be a similar question as posed by Wilson . The One-Oakhurst flyer states that LHD was created to prevent McMansions from infiltrating the neighborhood. Is that true?"

The people that are building the houses that are out of scale or that have larger massing and height are tearing down historic houses. If historic preservation is your goal then the most important thing to do is stop the tear downs. This is far more important than for example making sure the look of the windows is preserved. Also if you are trying to preserve the block face or the way the street feels it is important to not allow the out of scale houses that detract from the other houses and the feel of the street. I can not speak for all supporters but for me it is the number one reason I support it.

"The flyer also states that house size (height & square footage) is already addressed by our zoning laws. Is that true?"

This is very miss leading. My question to them is; what new zoning laws? There were zoning laws enacted in November of 2005 but they still allow houses to be 35' tall. If you would like to see what can be built under the "New zoning laws that address this" please drive by 204 Clarion Avenue and/or 234 Madison Ave . Can you imagine if someone built 204 Clarion next to you? Under the "new zoning laws" what is being built is still far out of size and scale of the surrounding houses in Oakhurst.
Now, if the flier was referring to the Infill task force (ITF) recommendation, which could be new zoning law in the future, then yes they address the size and scale but in their recommendations they loosen the requirements instead of tightening them. With the ITF recommendation a house can be 43'+ tall as viewed from the street, the square footage of a house would increase by 25%+, the side set backs would be shortened and the lot coverage would increase in our "substandard lots". There would also be a minimum to the maximum allowed square footage of 3600’ no matter how small the lot is. A normal lot in Oakhurst is roughly 50' by 150'. Under the current zoning a 3000 square foot house is allowed and under the ITF recommendation a 3750 square foot house would be allowed.

I ask that you please read these fliers critically.

You can find all the current zoning and the ITF recommendations on Decatur’s web site decaturga.com.

Mark Haggerty said...

The specific url for the infill task force is