APHZAB Has a Difficult & Important Job

Armory Park has many distinctive qualities but the most important is its historic character and legal status. As the most prominent Anglo-Territorial  and “railroaders” community in Tucson at the turn of the 20th century, it has historic value recognized by the federal, state and city governments. The City of Tucson has enshrined in the city code many provisions supporting preservation of our historic character. Locally, the APHZAB (see the glossary) has responsibility for applying provisions of the code in its review of proposed structural changes in our community. If we didn’t have a few Armory Park people willing to take on this challenging responsibility, the historic character of the community could be lost.

The most recent APHZAB meeting illustrated the challenge. A neighbor had built a parking shade structure without completing the historic review process. Because the structure was not approved and was not deemed to be consistent with the character of the historic zone, the board recommended that it be removed. The board recommended approval of one other previously not approved block wall and partial approval of a property fence.

In another action, the board recommended approval of a homeowner’s proposal to mitigate a construction error that resulted in a structure being 22 inches higher than shown in the approved plans.

As always, if you want to see the Legal Action Report which documents the board’s recommendations, you should go to the APHZAB page on the city’s website.

There are a few lessons for us to learn from this unpleasant experience for a homeowner and the board. The first is that all proposed structural changes will require a historic review and may require a building permit. This is the city’s definition of the term structure: A physical element constructed or erected with a fixed location on the ground or attached to another physical element having a fixed location at, below, or above grade. Structures include such elements as, but are not limited to, buildings, paved areas, walls, fences, posts, and patios. It is important to note that something not attached to the ground or to a structure and which can be moved is not a structure. If it is attached, it probably is a structure and subject to historic review. If you wish to view other definitions of terms used in the Land Use Code, go to this link: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/pdsd/land-use-code-art-6-div-2. Fences and roofing are two possibly unexpected items subject to review. Generally, any exterior work requiring a building permit is subject to review. Paint color selection not associated with structural changes and landscaping are excluded from the review requirement.

A second lesson: if you are not very familiar with the city building codes and historic review process, seek help. The APHZAB will give your proposed project an informal review so you can have a sense that your project is likely to be achievable. The city planning staff can also be very helpful. A caution here is warranted; the staff is made of specialists who may not be fully informed on the rules or processes of other functions within the city Planning and Development Services (P&DS) organization. You are likely to find the process complex and confusing. No one person will explain all of the elements of getting approval for your project, nor is there a single written guide for your efforts. Patience and careful attention to detail are essential. I plan to do some future articles to clarify some of the steps.

The third lesson is that this is a governmental regulatory process that can have significant impact on the place you live and on your wallet. Unapproved construction is subject to “stop work” orders, removal orders and other financial implications. The process starts in our neighborhood but goes up to the city Historical Commission, Tucson-Pima County (TPCHC). From there it goes to the P&DS Director who will make the final determination if there is no appeal. Appeals go to Mayor and Council for final action. Because of this process, you should allow a minimum of two months for a non-controversial project.

Another important action of the APHZAB was election of new officers. Liam “Bill” Duffy was elected to chair the board and Michael Lex was elected as Secretary. Jack McLain stepped down from the chair after serving our community well in that role for two years. Thanks to Jack for his excellent service and best wishes to Bill and Michael for taking on the challenges ahead.

If you find this post useful or have suggestions for future posts, please leave a comment.

Ken Taylor blog@kmtaylor.com

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