Historic Ordinance

City of Houston: Next Historic District Guidelines Meeting by Mark Sternfels

The City of Houston’s ongoing Historic District Design Guidelines project continues on Thursday, December 1, 2016, with a community workshop from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the United Way Community Resource Center, 50 Waugh Drive, Houston, Texas. 
This will be the second workshop conducted by consultants from Winter & Company, who are currently developing guidelines for seven historic districts: Houston Heights East, Houston Heights West, Houston Heights South, Freeland, Old Sixth Ward, Norhill, and Woodland Heights. You do not have had to attend the first workshop in order to come to this one. All property owners in these seven historic districts are welcome and encouraged to attend.
This workshop will help property owners prepare to give informed, meaningful feedback on a Visual Preference Survey, which every property owner will receive in January 2017.  Consultants from Winter & Company will explain the various design tools that might be used to achieve the goals for each district, as well as the factors that make additions and new construction compatible with existing buildings. All information will be presented in an easy-to-understand way, and reference materials will be available online, prior to the meeting. The workshop will also include one or two exercises, designed to help the consultants further understand what the property owners in each district feel are compatible with their specific district. The workshop exercises will be made available online for those who are not able to attend. 
Please visit the project webpage (http://www.houstontx.gov/planning/HistoricPres/Design-Guidelines-Heights.htmlbefore the meeting to find links to the informative materials, and again after the meeting to find links to the online exercises. More information about the project and previous activities can also be found on the project webpage.

City Working to Create Historic District Guidelines by Mark Sternfels

Earlier this year, the City of Houston approved changes to the City's Historic District ordinance. As part of those changes, City Council authorized the development of design guidelines for the three designated historic districts in the Houston Heights. The City ultimately bid out the design guideline project, and awarded the contract to Winter & Co, a nationally renowned and leading urban design guideline firm in the country. Because the bid also came in lower than the City expected, the City added other historic districts that have not yet developed design guidelines to the contract, including the Woodland Heights and Norhill. Other nearby neighborhoods, such as Germantown, (also located within the WHCA area) have already had design guidelines approved by City Council.

The design guidelines are primarily useful in identifying, visually, the scope, the variance, and the options available to residents looking to build or remodel buildings located in the historic district. Instead of interpreting the words of the ordinance, residents, architects and builders will be able to visually see pictures and renderings of options appropriate for that particular historic area. Moreover, the City and Winter will also consider whether larger historic districts ought to refine the guidelines to take into consideration whether some blocks or areas should consider different design guidelines than other blocks or areas.

Over the next year, Winter and the City will be working closely with residents in the Woodland Heights Historic District to develop design guidelines. The guidelines, which are part of the original intent of the Historic District ordinance, will be developed by Winter, with significant input from residents, including the collection of surveys, opinions, and community review of multiple drafts. In addition, the City has formed an interest committee with residents, builders, and others, to keep check on the City and Winter's progress through the process. David Jordan, who formerly oversaw deed restrictions and land use in the Woodland Heights, and is a resident in the Woodland Heights Historic District, has been appointed to that committee.

The City's effort is led by Steph McDougal, a PhD, historic preservation expert hired specifically for this project by the City's Historic Preservation, Planning & Development Department. McDougal held a meeting on June 20, 2016 at Hogg Middle School for residents of the Woodland Heights Historic District, who were notified by mail of the meeting. Residents were able to ask questions about the process and approach, and hear more about the program. Woodland Heights Historic District residents with questions can reach out to Mr. McDougal or Mr. Jordan.