Monday, August 29, 2011
Urban Neighborhood Issue: Tools for Preserving Character
The two local historic districts in the Urban Neighborhoods, Old Salem and West End, have design guidelines that must be followed when doing any rehabilitation of or additions to a structure, or a major change in landscaping. Locally designated Landmark properties must also follow rehabilitation guidelines in order to receive a tax break. All of these programs are vital to preserving the integrity of older homes.
If homes in National Register Districts or eligible National Register Districts receive federal funding for rehabilitation, the impact of the repairs on the historic integrity of the house must be assessed as part of an Environmental Review. This is an effective tool to protect homes in historic neighborhoods, especially lower-income neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it is perceived by some that the program can put an undue financial burden on the property owner to comply with established standards.
The Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District (NCO) is a more recent tool developed to protect the existing character of older neighborhoods. A neighborhood can apply for the NCO by doing research and documentation on the features of the neighborhood they want to protect, whether it is standard setbacks, lot sizes or widths, or a number of other elements. So far, two neighborhoods have done the work to have NCO guidelines approved. Since the two NCOs were approved, an Urban Residential Infill Ordinance has been adopted that helps resolve many of the issues neighborhoods have regarding inconsistent development patterns.