Historic District development changes approved

Changes to the City’s development code related to structures in historic districts were approved on second reading by the City Council at their meeting on Tuesday. The new rules go into effect on April 24.

The process to make changes to the Unified Development Code related to historic structures started last summer. The City conducted surveys in September and October last year to get input from residents and those involved in the development process on the historic district rules. Earlier this year, the UDC Advisory Committee and the Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the rules, listened to public input, and made recommendations about potential changes.

The new rules are for 1,677 houses and other structures identified in the 2016 Historic Resource Survey. Structures are designated in the survey as high-priority, medium-priority, or low-priority. The UDC requires approval for exterior modifications to structures identified on the survey. Most of these structures are in the Downtown or Old Town districts.

According to the revised rules approved by the City Council, approval of modifications for medium- and high-priority buildings in a historic district will continue to be reviewed by the Historic and Architectural Review Commission. Approval for low-priority buildings in a historic district will move from HARC to City Planning staff. One exception is that requests for demolition of low-priority structures inside a historic district will continue to be reviewed by HARC.

In addition, new single- and two-family residential structures in historic districts will now require approval from HARC.

The use of in-kind materials is permitted for low- and medium-priority structures. In-kind materials look like historic materials, but may be newly-made.

For the demolition of a high-priority structure outside a historic district, a 60-day hold will still apply and HARC will review the demolition application. For the demolition of a medium-priority structure outside a historic district, a 60-day hold will still apply and City Planning staff will review the demolition application. Demolition of a low-priority structure outside a historic district will no longer involve review by HARC or City Planning staff.

According to the new rules, HARC will continue to retain responsibility for final decisions. Overturning a HARC decision will require four votes at City Council. Previously, HARC appeals required five votes at City Council.

For more information about historic resources, the Historic Resource Survey, and the development process for historic structures, go to historic.georgetown.org.

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