At its monthly meeting, our historic board heard a presentation by Michael Means regarding the Historic Review Improvement Initiative. This effort by a number of Armory Park property owners is motivated by the inefficient and often unhelpful nature of the city’s historic review administration. The historic board struggles to perform its vital historic preservation mission while handicapped by an unnecessarily frustrating administrative process fostering ill will among property owners. Community support is essential for a fully effective historic preservation program.
John Burr, President of APNA, will include an APHPZAB letter in an APNA mailing in the next 30 days. A brief paragraph will be added to the APHPZAB letter like the following: A team is working a Historic Review Improvement Initiative and would like to hear about your positive and negative experiences to obtain City approval for your home project. Please contact Ken Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or Michael Means at email@example.com. If desired, your feedback will remain anonymous. Please provide your feedback on the current process and suggestions for improvement.
Though there was vigorous discussion, the APHZAB seems to see its role primarily as defending historic preservation. I agree that is the primary mission but their efforts should not be so narrow that supporting missions are neglected. Ultimately, historic preservation will only succeed if it has broad community support. The current city administrative process is all too often an inefficient and expensive “learn as you go” struggle which frustrates those who are trying to maintain their properties or construct new building consistent with Armory Park’s historic character. Support for process improvement can only enhance accomplishment of the board’s primary mission. Also, the board is elected by the community to serve as its representatives in the historic review process. Project proponents are also members of the community and deserve support for their legitimate efforts. Here are some of the more interesting comments during discussions followed (in italics) by my comments:
- We (APHPZAB) are primarily concerned with saving the historical integrity of Armory Park. Agreed but where is community service?
- “I spent $150 making 12 copies of documents per Mr. Taku. He subsequently discarded most of the pages as irrelevant.” Also, none of these expensive copies is provided to the APHZAB to help their review.
- Lots of discussion about very poor customer service and lack of supervisory involvement by City employees. Representing the community, the board should insist on a competent and customer friendly staff using customer feedback surveys for continuous improvement.
- The pamphlet entitled Armory Park Historic District Guidelines for Remodeling, Renovation and Construction was not approved by the Mayor and Council and as a result was not distributed. Some guidance on historic preservation is better than none at all. The city code and website are very difficult for the average citizen to navigate or understand. I have included the contents of the pamphlet in another article (HISTORIC DISTRICT GUIDELINES).
A couple of those at the meeting volunteered to help in the process improvement effort. They are most welcome and we hope that more of you will help out too. Contact Ken Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or Michael Means at email@example.com if you can help.
There were two reviews conducted, one formal and one informal. The informal review concerned proposed new construction on the vacant lot at 726 S. Bean Avenue. An informal review is a good way for an owner to learn about requirements which might come up later at a formal review causing unnecessary redesign expenses.
The formal review concerned the rehabilitation and addition project at 811 S 4th Avenue which led to a zoning violation and stop work order. While it troubled to the Board that a property owner did work without prior historical review and approval, since the work at 811 S 4th Avenue is consistent with Armory Park design guidelines and taking into consideration the Project Statement the property owner provided the City, APHZAB recommended that the pending HPZ violation be closed. APHZAB recommended that the property owner be refunded the difference between standard permit fees and zone violation penalties.