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 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.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice post!

Samuel said...

I read the comments on a previous post from Ante and I must confess they seem to think architects know what is best for everyone. My wife and I are considering an addition to our home. We started the process by researching architects. Not because it is required, but because it is important to us that our work match the character of the neighborhood. We did not see Mr. Denton or Mr. Rawlings (the vocal architects on this blog) in any of the notes of the HPC meetings. I am not certain they actually have experience working with the HPC or ordinances of the City of Decatur. I have seen Mr. Denton and Mr. Rawlings work and they appear to be very compentent architects. They do not do a lot of work with the style home I live in and therefore, I did not consider them. Now that I have seen Mr. Denton's opinion of the bungalow I am not certain I would recommend him. Even though he used the historic architecture of the time argument when he pursued a variance for work on his home. As for Mr. Rawlings he seems to be more interested in creating a work for someone to live in rather than creating a home that works for the lives of the residents. There is nothing wrong with their opinion and work, but it does not meet my "white bread and mayonaise sensibilities" (EAR's words). I do not know Ante but they suggested they have had difficulty working with the Decatur HPC. Why is it that there are five architects that seem to have no problems with the Decatur HPC? Could it be they have a specialty? Sure I would not go to my mechanic for my health questions, but I also would not ask an architect specializing in hospitals to design my home. Ante did mention that just because you have an architecture degree does not mean you work as an architect. But the same is true that just because you have hung out your shingle as an architect does not mean you are good at it. Every been to see a doctor that really was not good at his job? Well there are architects that are not good at theirs. Does the prospect of a local historic district scare me? No. I love what it has done for Clairmont District and MAK District. I know I can add on to my home because of the numerous examples of vast additions in other districts. I know it is an extra step, but the costs are worth the benefits for me. I am OK if you disagree, but the majority of my neighbors agree with me.

Anonymous said...

Ante on previous post said:
"We do have a current height restriction @ 35ft above the average grade at the front. The new in-fill recommendations attempt to lower this, but the minority report would deny many homes on small lots from expanding or building new 4 bedroom houses as they would be denied a 2nd story. The idea of keeping the heights in context with adjacent buildings sounds great in theory until you end up on one of our many smaller lots with 2 short neighbors. Many new families are moving here and will require 4 bedroom houses and everyone should be given an opportunity to achieve this! The main problem with the minority report is that it is purely focused on Landscape Architectural issues concerning only the exterior of the building within the setting. "

It is obvious that Ante is not really an architect from the comments made here. The comments are a pure dig at the Provosts which are both owners of a home with a large addition and one is a landscape architect.

What is wrong with what is said here? Well it makes it sound like there is only an either or option. What it does do is clearly illustrate the problem with the zoning ordiances. If you allow greater floor area and lot coverage and height to try and accomodate the growth needs of residents on substandard lots then you run the risk of allowing developers to build out of scale mcmansions. If you attempt to create zoning that does not allow mcmansions then you squeeze renovations to a minimum and hurt the residents of substandard lots. How do you strike a balance. Smart zoning that allows options for residents of substandard lots to build and to allow out buildings for garages to get cars off the street or for rental opportunities to provide a wide range of housing. Then you apply special overlays to the various communities with their own unique character. This is proper use of zoning. What are special overlays? Well one is LHD. In fact it is the only one that Decatur has. But there are other special overlays. DeKalb County uses them, but let's not go there because they are horrible. The strength of the LHD is that is applies design guidelines that affect what the community says is their unique historic character and what is important to them. Does it have restrictions? Yes, of course - but so does any zoning. So, what is wrong with using the majority in-fill report with a LHD? Or the majority in-fill report with another special overlay? Because the opponents only want to expand zoning. The majority of them are either developers, attorney's that represent developers or rental property owners. They want to maximize their investment in properties to be demolished. They have no interest in you - who want to live in your home and see the value increase - or your investment. The more demolitions that occur the more properties valued at demolition prices, the more money they make. Protect the character of you neighborhood. Ask you commissioners to help balance the needs and desires of the community with expanded zoning and LHD designation.

ante gamisou said...

I am EAR, so think about it for a second. I have had to sign in with different IDs because mine keep going dead somehow.

Samuel, you are entitled to your opinion. All of my clients have been very happy living in their homes, as they are tailored to their specific needs. What justification do you have for claiming that my houses are nothing but exterior statements and unfit for habitation? Have you talked to my clients? I appreciate your attitude about seeking the help of a design professional. It is important to find someone who is a good fit for you. I've designed everything from historic reconstructions to very modern buildings as I can appreciate good design in any form. I truly believe new buildings should be NEW! We should leave behind something that speaks of our time period, not someone else's. If you want a sustainable, energy efficient, interesting design, then maybe I'd be a good fit. The Discovery Channel thinks so, as they will be filming one of my "statements" going under construction on 3rd Avenue very soon. It will be one of the most efficient houses in the metro-area and it will provide a compatible, but refreshing look to Oakhurst. I guess that makes me a terrible Architect. What does the Discovery Channel know anyway?

I have never done a project in a Decatur LHD and never claimed to, but I have worked in Charleston SC (National District), Druid Hills, Inman Park and many,many other similar districts requiring a COA. I've worked with DPZ (Sea Side Architects who create sustainable developments with LHD like design regs, while utilizing historic detailing in a modern way) and I've done voluntary historic preservation projects like McDaniel Farm Park in Gwinnett.

I believe LHDs can work when properly applied, but can be disastrous when misused. Our neighborhood does not have the consistency of significant examples, our bungalows are not unique to Oakhurst, rather they are the most common house typology inside the perimeter, our housing stock is in dreadful condition due to decades of neglect and many homes can't be renovated without going completely backwards on your investment.

Any of you who think most builders are indiscriminately demolishing perfectly good buildings are very naive. No experienced builder is going to pay our high prices for buildings that are financially feasible to renovate, just to knock them down. They pay bottom dollar prices for homes that can't be renovated. That's why they're bottom dollar. Who's going to sell a perfectly good home for tear down prices in Oakhurst??? How can a builder make money buying an expensive home just to tear it down? Most of the un-renovated houses that are left are in terrible condition. Only Superman can tell if one of these bungalows is in good shape without tearing all the plaster off the walls, so please quit claiming that all the homes in Oakhurst are in perfectly good condition and can easily be renovated. I know the condition of our buildings and the economics of new vs old from the experience of renovating over 80 homes in the metro area and only building 12 new ones. What are your credentials?

By the way, I didn't realize the following quote was so offensive:

"2nd stories can be minimal in appearance like the Provosts home, which I consider to be a model design for renovating bungalows."

I do love their home design, kudos to them and their Architect. I don't mean to sound so harsh in my disagreement with their position as I do like the Provost's very much. I've known Steve Provost for a long time and have worked with him before before on a really important "green" project. I admire his skills as a Landscape Architect. I just wish he'd get his drawings to me on time.

Anonymous said...

"Any of you who think most builders are indiscriminately demolishing perfectly good buildings are very naive. No experienced builder is going to pay our high prices for buildings that are financially feasible to renovate, just to knock them down. They pay bottom dollar prices for homes that can't be renovated. That's why they're bottom dollar. Who's going to sell a perfectly good home for tear down prices in Oakhurst???"

This is really a statement that is a misrepresentation. The land value is what drives the price of what is a demolition to a "builder". It is true the developer decides what makes money for them. If they pay $220,000 for a home they tear it down so they can build one they can sell for $650,000 because it makes more money for them. If they renovate it they may only be able to sell it for $450,000. But to an individual the $100,000-$150,000 they invest over time to create that $450,000 home is not a backward investment as Mr. Rawlings suggest. It is an investment for their future and their enjoyment of their home and a building of equity. Maybe they could not afford to pay $650,000 for a home. The more homes that are demolished the less your modestly renovated home will be worth. That is not my opinion, it is supported by numerous empirical studies, some of which are on this blog.

Nice one last dig at the Provosts Mr. Rawlings. Your a gem.