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Historic Committee Now Denying Permits?


Tiko

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Sorry for the relatively fact-free content of this post, but I'm hoping someone with more knowledge on the topic will supply details. I've heard that the City is now denying almost all permits in the historic districts that alter the exterior and even just move interior walls. The company Nine Lights has done some very nice (IMHO) jobs nearby that have taken bungalows and removed almost all the interior walls (reinforcing the structure through the roof) and then adding large additions in the rear. From the street you almost can't tell they've been modified. I hear that the Board feels that these violate the spirit of the Preservation Ordinance and they're denying new permits.

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Sorry for the relatively fact-free content of this post, but I'm hoping someone with more knowledge on the topic will supply details. I've heard that the City is now denying almost all permits in the historic districts that alter the exterior and even just move interior walls. The company Nine Lights has done some very nice (IMHO) jobs nearby that have taken bungalows and removed almost all the interior walls (reinforcing the structure through the roof) and then adding large additions in the rear. From the street you almost can't tell they've been modified. I hear that the Board feels that these violate the spirit of the Preservation Ordinance and they're denying new permits.

While I certainly hope that this is untrue (as I still hope to finish my remodel someday), I would not be surprised if it were. The rumor during the historic district fight was that they were approving nearly everything, so as to improve their reputation. Since the fight is over, there is no reputation needed.

Anecdotally, an architect friend has numerous stories of idiotic demands by non-architects on the board. However, the board was always known for this. The ordinance did not change anything. I would be most interested in knowing whether the board will allow me to use Hardiplank siding, since I have an 8 year running battle with drywood termites.

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The most recent HAHC meeting notes available online (from Jan 12) show they approved all agenda items, although one project did require stipulations around materials to be used. I do not think they had any authority over home interiors...I need to go back and look at the ordinance to remind myself.

Edited by barracuda
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Sorry for the relatively fact-free content of this post, but I'm hoping someone with more knowledge on the topic will supply details. I've heard that the City is now denying almost all permits in the historic districts that alter the exterior and even just move interior walls. The company Nine Lights has done some very nice (IMHO) jobs nearby that have taken bungalows and removed almost all the interior walls (reinforcing the structure through the roof) and then adding large additions in the rear. From the street you almost can't tell they've been modified. I hear that the Board feels that these violate the spirit of the Preservation Ordinance and they're denying new permits.

I don't know where you heard this but I highly doubt it. I have lived in a historic district for 8 years and the interior has never been a concern for the HCAC.

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I don't know where you heard this but I highly doubt it. I have lived in a historic district for 8 years and the interior has never been a concern for the HCAC.

I'm sure this is true, but this is one of the issues a lot of people were concerned about the "power grab" that will be possible by the HCAC. I'm not sure if it has happened, but I would not be surprised.

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HCAC = Harris County Animal Control. But I think this group would be more objective than the HAHC which has other concerns such as what the New York Times is writing about Houston preservation. Also the HCAC folks are better equpped to deal with developers and contractors. Take a look at the January meeting minutes and you'll see an HAHC ruling on replacement siding that goes plank by plank. Talk about micro-management....as if that bunch knows anything about a particular siding project for my home.

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I have seen a few "renovations" done by just keeping the front facade, about 2/3rds of the side walls and the foundation while everything else is completely demolished. After the siding is taken off, windows taken out, widnow, door and front porch treatments/ornaments removed and replaced, there is very little difference between the "renovation" and a complete demo, except for retaining the style of the exterior front portion of the house and not building from property line to property line. This certainly was not the intent of the ordinance, but it may too difficult to revise the ordinance to prohibit this kind of "renovation" to make it worth the effort. The major goal of the ordinance has been acheived. The new construction and renovations are reasonably compatible with the existing historic architecture while allowing people to build 3500-3800 sq ft if they so desire.

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Well - I think the historic wackos got what they want. I have seen more new construction in the non-historic areas than I ever have....While my rental property may have a questionable resale value because it is in the district - I am quite happy to see all the new construction finally knocking down all the tiny shacks that still littered the area around my actual house....In the 3 blocks around me and only since the ordinance was passed 14 of those shacks are now in a landfill somewhere....13/14 of the new homes are beautiful lot line to lot line construction!.....I think this ordinance is going to vault my property value solely because it does not affect me!

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Take a stroll down the bike trail on Nicholson sometime - and you'll see the effect of the ordinance. Decent looking 25' wide houses packed in like sardines. Some people like it and some people don't (I won't judge either way) but this is what the "near-to" historic areas are going to look like from now on.

It demonstrates the supply and demand to live in the Heights - which is good.

Cheers

James

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....but this is what the "near-to" historic areas are going to look like from now on....

True, unless your block jumped on the Minimum Lot Size bandwagon....then you end up with million-dollar SFH's mingling with modest historicals sitting on very valuable land until the last holdout cashes in. Swamplot has these annual progressive maps of the lot-size ordinance blocks.......http://swamplot.com/where-houstons-lot-size-restrictions-went-year-by-year/2010-09-09/

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I am a fan of the minimum lot size restrictions. I like new development, but I don't like to see micro lots. New development is good for property values....townhomes, not so much....4400 should be the minimum. That is a tiny lot....I dont support the way historic ordinances were passed, but I have not seen the same resentment or cowardly tactics used to pass minimum lot sizes. They are a good compromise in protecting a block from being over developed.

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True, unless your block jumped on the Minimum Lot Size bandwagon....then you end up with million-dollar SFH's mingling with modest historicals sitting on very valuable land until the last holdout cashes in. Swamplot has these annual progressive maps of the lot-size ordinance blocks.......http://swamplot.com/...ear/2010-09-09/

Unless the City made your block an historical district before you cashed in. In that case, you live in a "modest historical" surrounded by new 3500 sf homes, with no opportunity to ever cash in.

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Unless the City made your block an historical district before you cashed in....

O crap......didn't know that abomination could still attack Norhill from the south. Hopefully the developers we keep up the pace until we're out of the danger zone. I wonder how many more historicals we have to kill off before the threat wanes?

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  • 5 weeks later...

Is it even worth doing a major home renovation/addition in the heights anymore? Is it too early to tell what the historic districts will do to our home values? We'd like to move forward with a renovation but we are already hitting an HAHC road block.....it's like they want us to live in the 1930's while our neighbors a few feet away are enjoying luxuries like proper insulation, double insulated windows, or god forbid...low maintenance siding...

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or the authenticity of your insulation! And we aren't really enjoying all our new stuff, that's your imagination running wild. The carbon guilt is so painful, I'm trading down to a Smart Car that runs on methane from your cracked sewer pipe. Plus I won't be a threat anymore to strollers and joggers at 11th and Heights.

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Is it even worth doing a major home renovation/addition in the heights anymore? Is it too early to tell what the historic districts will do to our home values? We'd like to move forward with a renovation but we are already hitting an HAHC road block.....it's like they want us to live in the 1930's while our neighbors a few feet away are enjoying luxuries like proper insulation, double insulated windows, or god forbid...low maintenance siding...

Have you actually been denied? What particular renovations have been denied? What "suggestions" have been made by the HAHC board?

While the historic restrictions will undoubtedly exert a slight downward pressure on prices within the historic district (in relation to properties without the encumbrance), a renovation that increases the square footage of the home will still increase in value, due to the fact that price per square foot is the metric for comparison. Therefore, a 1250 square foot house may be valued at $250,000, or $200 psf, but an addition that increases the square footage to 1750 square feet will likely be valued at $350,000 at the minimum. Since most additions cost well under $200 psf to construct, you will still see a profit on the addition. It just will not be as high as it might have been without the historic restriction. You also will have the aesthetic problem of designing an addition to fit the rules, as opposed to blending in with the existing structure (HAHC and its supporters are architectural retards).

If your addition only adds to the back or side of the house, and is only one story, you can generally avoid the ugly requirements of the ordinance and HAHC. Of course, this limits the size of the addition, and therefore, increase in property value.

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Is it even worth doing a major home renovation/addition in the heights anymore? Is it too early to tell what the historic districts will do to our home values? We'd like to move forward with a renovation but we are already hitting an HAHC road block.....it's like they want us to live in the 1930's while our neighbors a few feet away are enjoying luxuries like proper insulation, double insulated windows, or god forbid...low maintenance siding...

Here is something you can read. It's not definitive but optimistic for the HDs.

http://www.angelfire.com/tx5/cven04/Leichenko-%20Historic%20Preservation.pdf

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heights yankee, thanks for that...interesting read..

redscare, yes, a denial (technically not officially...yet), yes there were suggestions. i hate to go into too many details because it's still an open matter. our plan is fine but we are getting into issues with materials and age (or lack there of) of the materials, etc...

there is an appeal process available, first to the planning commission (and then later to city council). When i reviewed the agenda and minutes (planning commission) on those meetings (back to about 2009) i was surprised at how FEW appeals there actually where. Why? Are there more behind the scenes negotiations going on? are people just giving up? I dug up one anecdote of a family just moving out of the historic district after their denial...or maybe there aren't that many denials from the hahc to begin with....(probably some things are hashed out) Anyway, few official appeals (like a few a year at most?) and a lot of them resulted in reversing the HAHC ruling...so that's good news, at least.....a more sensible bunch of people it seems...

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lurker.

It used to be that replacing wood siding with Hardiplank was approved without comment. It sounds like that may have changed. As long as the replacement windows were the same size as the original, those were approved, as well. It is possible that things have suddenly tightened up. That would suck, since the pro-HD people said that would never happen.

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I would appeal if it's an issue of hardiplank siding. It's unreasonable to expect homeowners to install and maintain wood siding in this climate. I've replaced asbestos shingles with hardiplank and have even installed energy-efficient low-e vinyl windows with HCAD approval. However, the siding was in the rear of the house and on the garage (street-facing side), so that may have helped with the approval.

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wow - I watched the whole first segment of that video. That commmittee is filled with morons. But then again, its the City of Houston so completely expected incompetence.

So glad I just bought 2 blocks outside the HD in the Heights. Complete DEMO this summer

Also - its hilarious the committee is worried about every single piece of siding. I personally can't believe the builder in the video wasn't pushing for all hardiplank. I would never buy a wood siding house in houston.

I don't know the history of the district and what foresight the city council had, but the resulting backloaded bungalows from the ordinance rules look ridiculous.

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lurker.

It used to be that replacing wood siding with Hardiplank was approved without comment. It sounds like that may have changed. As long as the replacement windows were the same size as the original, those were approved, as well. It is possible that things have suddenly tightened up. That would suck, since the pro-HD people said that would never happen.

If he lives in the Norhill HD, window materials have always been a very real concern (if they are visible from the street). Our addition has vinyl windows but the rest of the house has wood windows. In Norhill, only wood or vinyl clad wood have been approved for the 8 years I have lived here. I don't know about the other, newer HDs but this is the case in our HD. Hardiplank has been approved on a case by case basis but it has always had to mimic the sizing of the original wood, meaning not the big, wide boards you see on new construction.

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Or if you have 117 siding (tear drop), then you have no chance of being able to use Hardi.......

If he lives in the Norhill HD, window materials have always been a very real concern (if they are visible from the street). Our addition has vinyl windows but the rest of the house has wood windows. In Norhill, only wood or vinyl clad wood have been approved for the 8 years I have lived here. I don't know about the other, newer HDs but this is the case in our HD. Hardiplank has been approved on a case by case basis but it has always had to mimic the sizing of the original wood, meaning not the big, wide boards you see on new construction.

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At the planning meetings that I attended Marlene Gaffrick SPECIFICALLY said that because of public comment during the comment period "cementitious siding" would be approved in the historic districts. If the commission is now no longer approving it I would either show them the transcripts or video from the public meetings.

Cheers

James

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Ok, I won't say they never approve of Hardi. I'm just saying it's not a case of a homeowner saying, "i would like to put hardi on my house" and the HAHC saying "ok, go ahead". Definitely not the case for our house.

I would love to know what their formula for giving the green light on Hardi, is. Does there need to be a certain percentage of house with rotten wood boards? Does it make a difference if the house is contributing, partially contributing or non contributing? (on the video I posted, they did appear to make different decision based on Partially contributing and contributing properties). Do they take into account style of existing siding?

It's clear as mud, as far as I'm concerned....

At the planning meetings that I attended Marlene Gaffrick SPECIFICALLY said that because of public comment during the comment period "cementitious siding" would be approved in the historic districts. If the commission is now no longer approving it I would either show them the transcripts or video from the public meetings.

Cheers

James

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It's clear as mud, as far as I'm concerned....

If you go back to the original topic on this Historic District BS you will see that one of the chief complaints about the whole ordinance was the absolute broad/inclusive language allowing the HAHC to have wide latitude in making decisions....It was brought up then that the HAHC would be able to act without any real set of rules and thus would be rife with abuse....friends of the HAHC are more likely to get special treatment than people who just want to not be bothered....its not at all inconceivable that two identical houses would have completely different approvals based on the ownership....there are no concrete guidelines....its totally upto the HAHC and how they feel the day they hear your case.

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...HAHC ...would be rife with abuse....friends of the HAHC are more likely to get special treatment....there are no concrete guidelines....its totally upto the HAHC and how they feel the day they hear your case.

Ok, I see how this is playing out. The path of least reisistance is to make "friends" with certain members of the HAHC since it was set up that way. Then make sure that they "feel good" on the day of your hearing. This is a Louisiana-style commission with certain "Napoleonic Code" rules. What will really help us with our Hardi problem is to find out exactly who on the HAHC is needing a little friendship. Then have a "friend of the court" contractor work it out for us. Let's start naming names and play the game.

Let's say I want to put up a convention center hotel in Norhill, with whom should I make contact? Bring pressure on these hooligans with sunlight disinfectant. Or is this just random abuse foisted by idiots pretending to be historians?

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I think the time for opposing the ordinance has come and gone. If one really wants to right the ship, it's time to oppose (and expose) the comissioners themselves. Are they really idiots or are they corrupt? I don't know given just the evidence cited here, but even random abuse is unacceptable. Bring public pressure on the commissioners to perform professionally and consistently or expose them for what they are. Who are these people? What are their qualifications and background? Start threads on each of these public figures, and if one gets hot, a journalist will pick it up.

Edit: HAHC Members

Ann Collum, Citizen Representative

Debra Blacklock-Sloan, Cultural History

Organization, Representative

David Bucek, Architect

Venita Ray, Citizen Representative

Dr. William H. Kellar, Historian

Doug Elliott, Citizen Representative

John Cosgrove, Real Estate Appraiser

Rob D. Hellyer, Remodeler/Builder

Jorge Garcia-Herreros, Archaeologist

Romulo Tim Cisneros, Commercial

Business Representative

Charles Stava, Citizen Representative

Phoebe Tudor, Chair, Architectural

Historian

Maverick Welsh, Citizen Representative

Edited by fwki
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I was amused reading the minutes of the last meeting. During public comments, HAHC members expressed surprise that virtually all of the complaints and problems were coming from the Heights HDs. Really? Imagine that. You impose a highly restrictive ordinance on a neighborhood overwhelmingly opposed to the ordinance, and then act surprised when that overwhelming opposition manifests itself at your meetings? In your efforts to soothe animosity toward your ordinance, you promise that you will be reasonable, but feign surprise when people find that you are just as unreasonable...or more so...after the ordinance is in place?

Yes, they are morons. And, yes, it should come as no surprise that they favor those who are on their side. That is why most of us complain about the capricious and arbitrary rulings of the board, but those who sit on their neighborhood's deed restriction committee never seem to have any problem with them.

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so, just for future record, here....and for anyone curious..

we have a contributing property, with original 117 siding....

we wanted hardi to replace our (from outside appearances) non rotted, partially original, 117 siding...

at first hearing, HAHC deferred us (for a month until the next hearing) so they could send out an inspector to see how much was rotted (their condition for letting us replace the siding they considered historic and precious)

hahc found little rot and led us to believe that they would not approve of any siding replacement (except for the few rotted ones) with new 117, hardi or otherwise....

in an effort to move the hell on and not have possible months more of appeals...we just cried uncle on the whole deal and agreed to keep the original siding...and on that note, we finally got a COA to do the rest of the stuff we want...addition, etc...

ofcourse, we never pushed them to actually deny us (were they bluffing? i guess i'll never know)

For all the cases i've heard where people get hardi? have not mirrored my case at all.....

everyone has a unique set of circumstances and you therefore get a unique answer from the HAHC......(i guess)

Edited by heightslurker
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I saw Bill Baldwin about a month ago in front of one of the Heights homes on tour. He said that there is a lawsuit that should be happening now that is considering the disingenuous designation of Heights Historic Districts in the first place on the basis of the City voting common areas for historic designation [i guess without City Council Approval].

Anyway, I wonder if there is any news about this.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Ok, I see how this is playing out. The path of least reisistance is to make "friends" with certain members of the HAHC since it was set up that way. Then make sure that they "feel good" on the day of your hearing. This is a Louisiana-style commission with certain "Napoleonic Code" rules. What will really help us with our Hardi problem is to find out exactly who on the HAHC is needing a little friendship. Then have a "friend of the court" contractor work it out for us. Let's start naming names and play the game.

Let's say I want to put up a convention center hotel in Norhill, with whom should I make contact? Bring pressure on these hooligans with sunlight disinfectant. Or is this just random abuse foisted by idiots pretending to be historians?

Yes it is.

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  • The title was changed to Historic Committee Now Denying Permits?

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