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, 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
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!


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


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:

“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.

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


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

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.
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...

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
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!
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.
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.