Historic Process Needs Improvements

At the June APHZAB meeting, the first item addressed was the roof replacement I commented on in a recent post here. The proposed re-roofing was recommended for approval and that there should be no fine levied. There was a lot of discussion regarding the reasoning for the requirement that re-roofing have a minor historic review. Roof coverings should resemble. where practical and visible from the street, the roofing materials used when the structure was constructed.

Later in the meeting there was considerable discussion about how the review of minor items might be simplified. It became evident that there is no clear understanding of which items of property repair might require a minor review.

I have been attending APHZAB meetings for the last several months and it seems that the board does a good job at reviewing proposed projects. What is missing is communications with community residents and with city officials in matters that would facilitate compliance with historic rules and ease the very challenging administrative process. For example, a flowchart or checklist of all required historic review steps could reduce the many trips now required to the building department. A reasonably definitive list of those projects (repairs?) requiring reviews could avoid another unintentional violation such as addressed earlier in the meeting.

My own major review of a carport project about a year ago was extremely frustrating and might be a good example of the current situation. I proposed to erect a pre-engineered carport at the rear of the house and invisible from any major street. It took five trips to the city offices to complete the stack of papers required. At each visit, I was told only of one requirement with another raised at each subsequent visit. Finally, my frustration overcame me and I asked Mr. Taku to be more helpful. He sorted through my stack of documents in five minutes and the package was complete. I then submitted the ten copies of the documents folded as I understood the complex city folding protocol.

Imagine my surprise when at my APHZAB major review the board had none of the ten copies I had submitted. Fortunately I brought along enough documentation for the board to understand and approve of my project. I was told that the absence of documents from the city is the norm.I found the APHZAB and the City/County review board to be very reasonable and easy to work with. I cannot say the same for the city staff which was very unhelpful and wasteful of my time and theirs. I have since done a minor review for some window awnings and saw no improvement on the part of city staff. I usually attend these community meetings to observe and report, not to comment. This time I could not contain myself and gave feedback from the perspective of a review applicant. Though the APHZAB does its primary task well, communication could be greatly improved. Here are some suggestions:

  • Meetings are only held when there is business to be conducted but notifications could be placed on the listserv as soon as it is known that there will be a meeting. This would remind interested residents to attend.
  • The board could demand that city staff provide some of the many copies of documents submitted by applicants for use by the board and those appearing before it to discuss the proposed project. If city staff is not up to this task, the applicant should be instructed to bring a copy of the package to the reviews.
  • Clearer guidelines of what items will require historic review could help avoid unintentional violations. These guidelines must be published in a visual medium such as a printed or electronically published document.
  • Similarly, a detailed checklist of the required steps, documents and other materials should be made available.
  • Regular explanatory articles of historic zone rules put on the APNA website could also help.

It is human nature for people not to like being required to ask permission to do something with their homes. It is even more unwelcome when they are told that something desired will not be approved. Both of these will sometimes be unavoidable to preserve the historic character of our neighborhood. I respect the people who are willing to take on this sometimes unpleasant task by serving on the APHZAB. I only ask that the process be improved so that it will be as palatable as possible.

If you have suggestions for ways the historic review process could be improved, please post a comment or send me an email at blog@kmtaylor.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s