Immediately after the normal opening routine, the regular April Historic Advisory Board meeting took a dramatic turn. Board Chair Martha McClements read into the record a written complaint sent to city government by Brian Kassel regarding John Burr. He claimed that John was biased against him because of some unexplained animosity. She further read her reaction to the complaint stating that she had great respect for John’s knowledge and integrity and intended to take no action on the complaint. John stated that he would not vote on Brian’s project but would participate in discussions as he deemed appropriate. There was further discussion from the board which supported the Chair’s decision. Remarks by Brian did nothing to clarify the situation but his perception may have been influenced by John’s attempts to point out some issues which may cause problems for the project if not addressed until a later date.
I have been observing the board for over two years now, rarely missing a meeting. Since application of historic preservation standards requires some subjective judgement, one might disagree with any particular board decision. My observation, however, is that board members take their responsibilities seriously and are conscientious in applying the standards as they interpret them. They want property owners to be able to use their properties as desired but historic preservation is always the first priority.
Martha and John gave a brief update on the upcoming zoning hearing regarding the Baffert project at 6th Avenue and 18th Street. You may recall that the hearing had to be rescheduled because of mistakes in the notice of meeting when first scheduled. The meeting has been rescheduled to May 3rd but may not happen even then. There were so many mistakes and missing or incorrect information that it may take more time to research the issue properly. City staff has really done a poor job on this process and has strained its credibility with the neighborhood. Because of his extensive understanding of zoning matters, it was John who detected the errors and brought them to the attention of city staff.
Some in the community feel this poor handling of the hearing is an attempt to discourage neighbors from participating. I certainly hope that is not the case. More likely is that because the rezoning is seen by staff as a done deal, preparation for the hearing was not given appropriate attention. There is no question that economic pressures from developers and the expressed priorities of Mayor and Council suggest that the property will be developed largely as planned with only the details to be worked out. If you are not happy with this situation, keep watching for details of the hearing, whenever it may finally be held.
There was one major review to be considered, a new multiple unit residential construction at 726 S Bean Avenue of which Brian Kassel is the property owner. After extensive discussion of various aspects of the project, the discussion focused on application of historic standards to the project. A motion was made and adopted to recommend against approval of the project as presented to the board. The first of two main issues was total structure height. A new structure cannot be taller than the tallest historic structure within a legally defined development zone and the proposal does not comply. The development zone can be expanded to take in nearby taller structures but no application has been made to do so. The second concern is about massing and that too is related to height. Massing is the visual impact of a structure because of size and shape. Because the proposed buildings would be two story and flat roofed with parapets, it would loom over surrounding historic properties.
The three remaining action items were about code violations for failing to apply for historic review before making exterior building alterations. The first, a major renovation at 245 S 5th Avenue by Waverly Rentals was quickly resolved as agreement was reached to replace the new inappropriate vinyl and aluminum windows with traditional appearing wood windows. The Waverly Rentals representatives were anxious to understand the historic standards and review process because they plan to do another project in Armory Park soon and they want to do it correctly. I was pleased to see their constructive attitude because that is not always the case.
The second violation concerned removal of security bars and replacement of windows at 821 S 4th Avenue (Fernando Chiquette, property owner) without historic review. Apologies were offered for the failure and this issue and another project will be brought to the board at its next meeting.
After completing the action items, discussing of the HistoricTucson.org website, most board members indicated their support for continuing to develop the site. When completed, the site will collect the guidance needed to design an approved project in an Historic Preservation Zone and particularly Armory Park.
In the interest of clarity and disclosure, I want to briefly explain my role in all of this. I am not a member of the APHZAB but I value the important work the board does. Members are all unpaid volunteers who take on a difficult job. To support their efforts I manage the online data repository used during meetings. Using a projector and screen to display documents makes the meetings go more smoothly.
I have also built the Historic Tucson website (above) to support the board by helping prospective historic review applicants to better understand the standards and review process. This site will also serve the other four HPZs, should they desire. I offer the site as a community service. I also manage the website for the Armory Park Neighborhood Association (ArmoryParkTucson.org) for the APNA board.
All APHZAB meetings are open to the public. I attend meetings as a member of the public as you should when possible. Since many of you can’t attend, I report on my view of the meetings here. This AroundArmoryPark.net website is mine for offering comments and news about matters I feel are important to the neighborhood — like APHZAB meetings.
If you want to give me feedback, email email@example.com.
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