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, 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."


Jeanne said...

A gentleman attended a neighborhood meeting for the area of Melrose, Drexel, and Landsdown. I believe his name was Stephen. He provided what I believe to be misrepresentations of the facts regarding local historic district. Mostly in a negative context and implied no citizen would be allowed input. I know from experience with local districts in other parts of Georgia, DeKalb County and Decatur that what he was stating was not accurate. What can be done about this?

Anonymous said...

Yeah the residents had a lot of input on the original nomination. The opponents to this attened every guidelines meetings and put in their 2 cents. The purposed guidelines were modified to reflect everyones oppinions. I assume there will be more guideline meetings since this is basically a new nomination. There is 2 public meetings to determine if the LHD will be created and at that time the residents can give input on if they want it or not. Once an LHD is in place there is a public hearing in the COA process where residents can give input about specific projects. This is all about citizens being allowed input.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable! When I contacted your neighborhood representative initially, I made it VERY clear in the first sentence of my email that I was opposed to this nomination even before it was expanded. She also made that clear to the others that would be attending the meeting. So there is NO WAY that you or anyone else at that meeting could believe that ALL of my comments could possibly be purely objective. I also made it VERY clear that I would TRY to be objective about what I said but that was difficult because of my staunch position on this issue. I also made it VERY clear that you should contact Joy or Greg to come speak to you as well. Remember? So, Jeanne, who is misrepresenting who?

I NEVER once said implicitly or explicitly that there was no citizen input in the process. I DID say that the city ordinance did not require much public input until very late in the process and that was something that the City Commission was very concerned about as well. I DID say that the process was not very democratic from the perspective that there is no direct vote on the issue and the only way to have a voice either way was to contact your Commissioners. I DID say explicitly that the nominators had held several meetings to discuss the guidelines and an intent but there was never any meaningful discussions about why a local historic district was necessary or appropriate. I DID say that I was an architect and that that is what framed the basis of my opinions based on experiences that I have had with local historic districts. I DID say that I felt that the majority of the issues, as I understood them from the nominators, could be solved through zoning regulations - issues of mass and scale and character as they pertain to relationships of houses to one another. I DID say explicitly that I felt Cabbagetown represented a very good example of an appropriate use of a local historic district because of the social and cultural heritage of the area as mill housing for workers of the mill as well as the various architectural limitations with regard to lot size and housing style that were impossible due to current zoning and building code requirements and that some sort of overlay was necessary to maintain Cabbagetown's character and cultural heritage. I DID try to objectively explain the history of this debate since January 2007 up to today and to simply help your neighbors understand how you were now involved in this issue through the recent actions of the HPC. I DID try to explain the charge that the City Commission gave to staff in the last Commission meeting and that we would all know much more after the 15 October meeting.

I tried to be as objective as possible, however, my position was well known and I encouraged you to contact Joy or Greg as well. Give us all exact instances of where I misrepresented FACTS about local historic districts - I, and I am sure others, would love to know what they were.

Anonymous said...

And another thing, Jeanne, where were the nominators with respect to letting you and your neighbors know about all this? Why did they not come to your meeting or contact you to let you know what was going on? They made the original nomination so should it have not been their responsibility to let you know? At least someone did. And, as I recall, the nominators claimed that they had approached your neighborhood about being in the original boundaries and that your neighborhood declined. Is that not true? Did they contact you then?

Anonymous said...

I think the DPA and the HPC should get involved in educating the public about Local Historic Districts. The HPC and the city is actually charged with this responsiblity. Your "neighborhood representative" probably shouldn't have invited Mr. Denton. I would ask for answers from that person. This is a very political topic and everyone has an agenda, talking points, slants, things they can say, things they can't, people they will invite to neighborhood meetings and people they won't.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't at the meeting but do you have any references to back up whatever statements you made as facts? If you read this blog and all the information and studies provided you will find an overwelming number of facts in favor of LHDs. The problem is that the city reports facts and since there are very few actual facts against it and there are many facts for it, it makes it appear that the city is pro-LHD.

Facilitator said...


I did not attend the meeting and I am not certain who Stephen is or if any of the responses here are from that individual or not. I can say that I have not had knowingly had a conversation with anyone who has posted on this string.

However, in keeping with making this more of a conversation and to try to stop some of the accusations bubbling up on this string, could you please provide specific examples so we can address them directly with context to the LHD at hand and specific Decatur ordinances? Thanks.

I will say that much has been said regarding what can and can not be done under the special zoning overlay of Local Historic District. Much of this is speculation at this point because it has not been determined what if any historic district will be formed, what would be contributing or non-contributing and what the design guidelines will include. The Local part of Local Historic District is just that - it is localized and is specific to the district. There are quite a bit of difference between the existing local historic districts in Decatur and vast differences between local historic districts in Georgia. If you have a question about what can and can not be done in a local historic district please ask and we will answer the question from the perspective of the existing local historic districts and what it could mean under a new district.

There is currently no proposed zoning that addresses massing and height issues. The majority report for the infill task force allows for a maximum height of 40-42 feet and greater massing than the existing zoning. The compromise zoning discussed by the planning commission in August keeps the current height restriction but allows greater massing. There are no other overlay districts in Decatur beyond Local Historic District. I think everyone would love to consider other options, but any special overlay would require administration and that would likely fall to the HPC. Stay involved with information related to the new in-fill zoning. If you live in Oakhurst or Lenox Park the in-fill zoning will require a larger house than the maximum that can be built now if the resident makes concessions for run-off. This is significant for Oakhurst because Atlanta's new zoning is pushing development into our area.

ante gamisou said...

Smdenton and I are Architects with considerable experience with LHD's and other similar areas requiring COA's before permit. We both could profit from an LHD as you people would need us. Why do we oppose something that could benefit us financially? Because we know from experience (not just one, but many) what LHD's are about and how much the process can drain the life out of a project and client, not to mention the wallet. We don't like to be forced to compromise our design at the direction of people who are typically not Licensed Architects, but only have degrees. We achieved our professional requirements and are more qualified to determine what is or isn't appropriate. How many of you think you are more qualified than a Licensed Architect with several real project experiences that required COA's??? This is what we do for a living and you should be listening to us!!! Would you go to a mechanic for advice about your health???

It's easy those of you who already did your massive renovations to embrace the LHD as you will only reap the benefits and not have to deal with the consequences.

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 does not consider the actual house and how the interior will function in it's new confined space. It does not take into account that people will not buy a brand new 2 bed 1 bath house, which is what will be left if you have a small lot and two short neighbors. Moreover the formulas used to average the heights and side yard setbacks would require a survey of several properties to prove to the officials where everything is and the heights would be very difficult to prove as they are to the center of the roof mass. These formulas should be simplified to a standard distance like 5ft to the property line and not less than 10ft from the adjacent structure for fire separation.

Everyone of us has the same common distaste for the bad, plan book, new construction. It was not designed to fit the setting and always looks foreign. 2nd stories can be minimal in appearance like the Provosts home, which I consider to be a model design for renovating bungalows. Guess what? They hired an Architect. We should be hiring professionals to design our homes now. Why do we only wait until we're practically forced to? New construction is slowing down quickly. Many builders are going bankrupt and sitting on lots of inventory. We will soon see a lot of home owners doing the construction for a while, so let's show them what we expect to see!!!

Diane Loupe said...

I invited Mr. Denton to the meeting of my neighborhood, north of the tracks, that is now included in the Oakhurst Historic district. Mr. Denton made it clear to me that he was opposed, and I made that clear to the people who attended. By the way, no one named Jeanne was at the meeting, so unless Jeanne is a pseudonym, Jeanne only has second-hand information about what was said.
Mr. Denton never said that no citizen would be allowed input in the decision of the historic district.
In fact, we had a neighborhood resident, Melissa Forgey, who is a historian and who supports historic districts, so I felt that I was hearing both sides of the issue.
I thought Mr. Denton made an honest effort to give us factual information, including ways to contact supporters of the district.

My residence is on Adair, which would not be in the district, but I own a rental on Melrose, which would. I guess I'd have to say that I'm hesitant to support something that has the potential to severely restrict my rights to develop my property, without any clear-cut benefits to me. I am not speaking for my whole neighborhood, just me. I'm sorry that this has been so divisive, but opponents also have a right to their opinions.

Jamie said...

The majorty report would allow homes to be 40-42' high. That is higher than what is allowed in local commercial districts. It is a 4-story structure. Yet this is the in-fill that Denton and others are telling their neighbors would protect the unique character of the neighborhood and resolve the "mcmansion" problem.

I would like to know what other historic districts ante worked in and what problems they ran into. Because local historic district is local we could write our design guidelines to avoid these problems. All of the so called architects that have posted on this blog complain about the design guidelines of other historic districts but have yet to provide any real solution to the overall theme I hear from my neighbors for and against the out of scale homes.

Mr. Denton, did you design the multi-family development on Oakview?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jamie,
You expressed many of my thoughts perfectly. It's real easy to sit back and shoot other peoples solutions down and never produce any yourself. I guess Ante's solution is to ask people nicely to use architechs.

Anonymous said...

I say until someone inacts a better solution or this solution is inacted this nomination needs to stay. It is our best and only hope for real solutions.

Anonymous said...

Stephen Denton still didn't produce the sources of all these "facts" against LHDs.

Here is an artical he wrote for the August Oakhurst Leaflet. This artical tells us, a neighborhood of bungalow owners how worthless they really are.

Diane, for or against LHDs you should be more careful to invite people that are a legitimate source of information.

One Neighbor’s Opinion of
Historic Designation
by Stephen Denton (smdenton@bricolageworkshop.com)
While one must acknowledge that no one wants to be told that
their home is not historic, it must be understood that there is a
broad distinction between something having a history and
something being historic. History involves memories and
nostalgia and is a record of past events – everything has history.
Historic, on the other hand, is something significant having an
influence on history. Therefore, let’s be perfectly clear, the
proposed local historic district is not an issue of historic
preservation. It is clearly a method to circumvent current zoning
ordinances and to place community control over one’s aesthetic
property decisions.
To the best of my knowledge, there have been three reports
written about historic preservation in the City of Decatur in the
recent past: The South Decatur Historical and Architectural
Survey completed in 1987 by noted historian Darlene Roth, the
Report of the Historic Preservation Task Force of the City of
Decatur, written in 1989 and the Decatur Historic Resources
Survey written again by Darlene Roth in 1990. Of these three
reports, the South Decatur survey is the only one that mentions
Oakhurst as a potential preservation district. Its scope was
limited to south Decatur and does not encompass all of Decatur.
It is not surprising therefore that this report includes Oakhurst as
a potential district, as it actually lists almost every neighborhood
in south Decatur including Agnes Scott College and surrounds,
the Adams Street area, Winnona Park, and Oakhurst. It is also
important to point out that Ms. Roth did not list Oakhurst in her
follow-up survey in 1990, that did cover all of Decatur.
Therefore, with the South Decatur survey’s obvious flaw of
limited scope coupled with two subsequent Decatur-wide reports
that exclude Oakhurst as a potential preservation district, all
documented reports produced by the City of Decatur in the last
25 years explicitly conclude that Oakhurst is not historic and
does not warrant preservation protection.
The history of the Town of Oakhurst is unquestionably unique
from the perspective that it existed for only six years before
being incorporated into the City of Decatur. The area developed,
along with almost every metropolitan area in the country, during
a time of suburban expansion in the early 1900’s. It developed
along the railroad lines and along trolley lines. Except for some
street configurations in Oakhurst, there is no immediate historical significance to the extinct trolley lines. Uniqueness alone does
not mean historic. While Oakhurst is a great community for
many reasons, the history of Oakhurst as a town and as a
neighborhood has no specific significant cultural event or
heritage to warrant preservation on cultural grounds.
The suburban expansion of the early 1900’s was driven by many
factors. However, one prominent factor was the development of
the bungalow housing style. It was very inexpensive to build and
centered on a very simple layout, which appealed to the mass
population. It allowed a great number of people the possibility of
home ownership that did not exist before. In fact, it was so
popular that it developed into a catalog home that was made in a
warehouse and shipped, via rail, hence development along the
rail line, to its destination where it was erected by local
carpenters. It is not surprising then that there were hundreds of
thousands of bungalows built during a relatively short time span.
These bungalows are not built very well and they quickly lost
favor because their simple layouts did not satisfy most people’s
needs. Given the vast numbers of bungalows in existence, not
just in Oakhurst, but throughout the country, the bungalow is not
an endangered species and does not classify, in Oakhurst or
elsewhere, as a significant historical architectural building type.
In fact, in the South Decatur survey, Ms. Roth describes the
bungalow as “almost any small-sized house of almost any
material.” It further states that the bungalow “almost defies
In conclusion, there is nothing in the application for a proposed
historic district in Oakhurst that classifies, defines, or otherwise
determines that the houses in Oakhurst or the neighborhood in
general are historically significant to warrant protection. In fact,
the nomination application for the proposed district contains a
total of nine sentences under the significance section with only
two of those addressing the architecture of Oakhurst. And the
introduction and intent in the current guidelines has all but erased
any mention of making a case for historical significance. History
and nostalgia should not be mistaken for historic. Moreover, any
guidelines written that try to guide, restrict, or determine how to
renovate, repair or build new the bungalow style are flawed and
simply irrelevant since even noted historians have determined
that the bungalow cannot be defined.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Denton,

What ordinance for LHD are you referring the ordinance for MAK, the ordiance for Clairmont, the ordinance for Ponce Court or the ordinance for Old Decatur. Each ordiance is different just as each design guideline is different. The City wide ordiance only states that a district can be created. The wording for that ordiance follows what was given for the state. I could not disagree with you more regarding the historic significance of our community. I have the patience to understand that you disagree and ask that you share that patience.