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, August 8, 2007

Here is a questions for you. What about handicap ramps in lhds?

This is a question posed in a comment on a previous post. I start with the original comment. I apologize it is a long one.

Here is a questions for you. What about handicap ramps in lhds?I have been disturbed about the disagreements regarding handicapped ramps and whether or not a COA with full Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) review was a requirement. During one of the first rounds of public "input" sessions hosted by Amanda Thompson, the question was asked and she stated that a full COA and review was necessary. Lately there have been numerous disagreements with this statement. I wanted to be certain that I was speaking about this matter accurately and truthfully. Therefore, I did research on the subject and here is how it was explained to me. Georgia state law re historic preservation districts mandates that homeowners requesting any material change whatsoever to their house situated within a Local Historic District (LHD) must apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) and submit to a full HPC review. Because the addition to front or side entry of a handicap ramp is always a material change, the plans must be presented and approved by the HPC. Approval or denial can then be appealed to the City Commissioners by either the applicant or a neighbor. Appeal or denial at the City Commission level can then be appealed in the courts by either the applicant or a neighbor. The city nor the HPC can get around this particular addition because it is mandated by state law. Hopefully this answers this debated matter sufficiently.

I am not certain what the point or the question really is for this post. I am assuming that three things are being asked to be answered. One, are handicap ramps allowed in local historic districts. Two, must you get a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) for construction of a handicap ramp. Three, what is a material change.

First, yes handicap ramps are allowed in local historic districts. I am not aware of any handicap ramp that has been denied in any local historic district in Decatur. The design guidelines for the proposed district are not available, but I do not anticipate there will be a provision for restricting handicap ramps. The level of change to a home necessary to build a handicap ramp varies from home to home. I have neighbors with a flat stoop and on step to the ground that would need very little if any change to their home to provide a handicap ramp. I have other neighbors that live on a very tall hill with multiple steps on multiple levels that will require extensive changes to put a ramp on the front of their home.

The question of whether or not a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) will be required or not is a difficult question to answer. There are no proposed design guidelines to use to answer this question. However, material changes to the front and side of a home do require COA in local historic districts. Some handicap ramps will be simple, temporary structures others will be more complex and may require greater change. That means the question of whether a COA will be required is more complex than a yes or no answer. The most appropriate answer at this time is "it depends". Once more is known about the design guidelines we may be able to provide a better answer.

What is a material change? A material change is something that changes the architectural element or historic character of a building. Any permanent change to your home would represent a material change. However, items constructed that can be replaced, removed, or repaired without changing the structure would not be material. Changing the placement of a front door is material. Changing your screen door is not material.

I have heard several sides of this argument in the past months and I have begun to believe this argument is not about handicap ramps at all. The disabled and the elderly are very important to our community and represent the most underserved in our community. To use tactics to frighten these residents to support your argument is unseemly regardless of which side of the argument you reside. Pardon me as I step down from my soap box.


Carla said...

Does anyone know the costs of a handicap ramp?

Pam said...

I'm sure it is like anything else -it varies in cost. I believe the people who have a handicap ramp on Leyden had a nonprofit organization put it in for free, and I know our neighbors that lived 2 doors down from our old home paid someone to put one in that was too steep and therefore not usable. It was a complete waste of money.

As far as I understand, Handicap Ramps are suppose to be permitted in Decatur regardless to whether or not you live in a historic district - which makes since when you take into consideration of what happen to our neighbor in the second example - in their case it was not only a safety issue and a practicality issue, but also a financial issue - being taken advantage of a dishonest or at best incompetent "handy man".