Blame it on an outdated Preservation Plan.
Some 10 years ago when the 1,110-home enclave of Windsor Square was in the process of becoming an historic zone, a “vocal minority” was against it. To appease the property-rights critics, the Preservation Plan—a blueprint for the area’s Historic Preservation Overlay Zone—was crafted with a broad interpretation.
“Now with a decade of experience, we see it’s not yielded the results that were hoped for,” said Ken Bernstein, manager of the Office of Historic Resources, City Planning Dept.
A recent example is a renovation and second-story addition recently approved for a Spanish style bungalow at 232 N. Plymouth. The board didn’t have a choice, said Windsor Square Historic Preservation Overlay Zone board member Caroline Labiner.
The Plymouth project was set back from the main facade of the house 26 feet as required by the Windsor Square Preservation Plan, and property owner Siamak Khakshooy worked at length with board chair Matt Artukovich and fellow volunteer members Priscilla Wright and Andrew Woodward.
Newer Preservation Plans incorporate stricter rules, said Labiner, an architect who also sits on the board of the Harvard Heights HPOZ, whose rulebook is about twice as thick as Windsor Square’s 148-page Plan.
In Harvard Heights, landscape and everything that is visible from the street or neighbors’ properties are taken into account.
“You have to say that makes sense,” said Labiner, because “you’re not walking from one house to another looking dead on… historic quality of the neighborhood has to deal with the rhythm and pattern of the street.”
“The Preservation Plan is the most important part… you have a set of rules to protect the historic qualities of the neighborhood. There are always exceptions, but that gives you the rules to go by,” Labiner said.
“Enforcement is always the tricky issue,” she adds. Some people don’t apply for permits or comply. Often people “are unhappy when being told to comply, but after the fact they begin to understand you’re protecting the entire neighborhood and increasing the property values of their homes.”
So, let’s get a new plan
“We’ve been trying to rewrite and work with the planning department to make it more strict…” said Labiner. In July 2013, the Windsor Square HPOZ Board asked the Planning Department to review the plan, but the process has been on hold due to staffing issues.
The department has also been busy creating six more HPOZs citywide and a new control ordinance to protect 15 single-family neighborhoods from McMansions.
But come this fall, the department is set to review all 30 HPOZs with public hearings and workshops, to be held simultaneously to streamline costs and time management, said Bernstein.
The process is expected to take about one year to complete.
By Suzan Filipek
Category: Real Estate