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.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Easton Historic District

EASTON/Local Historic District
Local Historic District: Preserving Easton’s Rich Architectural History
Downtown Easton has a rich and varied architectural history, and city officials have taken steps to make sure that history is preserved.
Last fall, 2005, City Council signed into law a Local Historic District ordinance that was later certified by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
“The significance of this ordinance is that it will stop any further deterioration of the historic architectural assets we have in downtown Easton,” explained Bob Sedey, who was appointed chairman of the historic district commission when it was formed in October.
Preserving the historic atmosphere of Easton is a worthy goal. The district contains about 600 buildings. Sedey estimated that more than 500 of those are historic in nature, with some dating back to the mid-18th century.
The Ahlum Gallery at 106 N. Fourth Street is a good example of the type of structure the ordinance seeks to protect. According to owner Denise Ahlum-Sandy, the original front-end of the building dates back to the late 1700s.
Ahlum-Sandy purchased the building in 2000, and had it registered in the National Historic Registry. She then renovated it in compliance with guidelines provided by the registry.
Ahlum-Sandy is grateful the local historic district was formed, because it will ensure that any renovations of surrounding properties will also respect the historic qualities of the city.
“If you look at villages, cities, and towns that have a historic district, they’re great, they’re beautiful. They are nice places to walk, and they have kept their historic integrity,” Ahlum-Sandy said.
In the past, Ahlum-Sandy has seen historic facades modernized and destroyed. The new ordinance will prevent that from happening.
“What happens now will be more compatible with what we have,” she said.
That’s important, she added, because Easton’s unique architecture is “one of the top priorities” for business owners from out of town to locate in the city.
The Local Historic District ordinance covers an area that is bounded, roughly, on the south by Ferry Street; on the east by the Delaware River and west to Sixth St.; and on the North by College Avenue.
The law allows city council, through recommendations of the Historic District Commission (HDC), to oversee any changes made to the exterior of all buildings within those boundaries. Any home or business owner wishing to change the façade of a building must first receive a Certificate of Appropriateness, or COA, from City Council
“We are only interested in those things that happen on the outside of a building,” Sedey stressed. Interior renovations would not be effected by the ordinance, nor would any renovations that are not visible to the public.
However, any new development, all demolitions, and any alterations, reconstructions, or repairs to the façade of a building would be subject to the ordinance requirements, and to recommendations by the commission.
The ordinance governs such details as the height of a building, the arrangement of windows and types of materials that can be used. It does not address issues such as paint color, window treatments or door and window hardware.
All new signs installed in the district must also comply with regulations.
Ultimately, city officials hope to protect the historic buildings and streetscapes of Easton. That not only serves to safeguard the rich character of Easton, but it makes it an attractive residential and business environment, as well.
“It’s proven to be a powerful planning tool,” said Jeff Martinson, vice chairman of the Historic District Commission. “It’s been shown that buildings within a historic district see property values increase over time, and it also increases investor confidence, because if you invest or own or sell a home in a historic district, you know someone’s not going to do something wild and crazy next to you.”
Martinson, an architect, observed that Easton has a distinctive nature that should be preserved.
“There’s a lot of great architecture here – a lot of diversity and great style,” he said. “And Easton has a great street pattern, with a focus on Centre Square and the rivers, and interesting topography. It makes it a fun place to live and work.”
“Easton is a fairly distinctive place for the size of the city,” Martinson added.
It’s unique in that it already has three Nationally Registered Historic Districts. Those include the Downtown National Historic District, Easton Centre National Historic District and College Hill National Historic District.
The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and Lehigh Canal System enhance the historic character of the city.
Plans to create a Local Historic District date back to 1983. At that time, the concept of a district was proposed and outlines were drawn, but no ordinance was ever approved by Easton’s City Councils.
This time around, things turned out differently.
“A lot of people saw what redevelopment had done to the south side of the downtown,” said Sedey, referring to an area along Larry Holmes Drive. “We lost a lot of architectural gems.”
While the Local Historic District is undoubtedly most advantageous to homeowners and business owners within the district, visitors to the area will benefit, as well.
“People are interested in history wherever you go,” Martinson pointed out. “Many of the most popular travel sites are history oriented. So, visitors to Easton will benefit because there will be some exposure of historical assets and visually improved buildings and spaces.