Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

The new Historic Preservation ordinance

From Swamplot:

The mayor’s office is out with a “public comment draft” of proposed changes to Houston’s Historic Preservation Ordinance. The biggest (and most expected) change: There’ll be no more 90-day “compliance waivers” issued for historic-district properties. Under the previous ordinance, owners of contributing properties in historic districts whose plans for new construction, demolition, or renovation had been rejected by the city’s historic commission could proceed with those plans anyway after simply waiting 90 days. Under these changes, the Old Sixth Ward — labeled a “protected” historic district because the waivers weren’t allowed there — will now be the model for all others.

But the changes also include a completely revised process for neighborhoods to vote on historic-district status. Previously, for a neighborhood to file an historic-preservation application, it needed to submit a petition signed by owners representing more than 51 percent of its tracts. But the new system puts power into the hands of owners who are willing to express an opinion and takes it away from those who can’t be bothered or found. It allows an application to be filed if 67 percent of the property owners in a district who send in special cards distributed for that purpose indicate on those cards that they’re in favor of the designation.

I like that change. If you really don’t care one way or another, or at least don’t care enough to officially say so, you shouldn’t be part of the process. The threshold is low enough for opponents to win, and it makes the job of those who favor historic preservation status easier, too. Finally, getting rid of the 90-day waivers, which are one of the biggest jokes in Houston, is a huge step in the right direction. What was the point of even having a commission if its rulings meant nothing?

Of course, this is a long way from finished, and even if it makes it to the finish line, there may be many changes along the way. But first this proposal has to overcome the usual opposition from the usual suspects.

Josh Sanders, executive director of Houstonians for Responsible Growth, an organization that includes developers and advocates for private property rights, said the new rules could hurt the economy.

“It’s going to slow growth. It’s going to potentially slow down an area that’s rapidly redeveloping,” Sanders said, adding that residents should be able to vote on whether to accept the new rules.

I believe the petition process, in which a one-third minority can prevent a given subdivision from gaining the historic designation, is more than sufficient to ensure that all interested parties have a say in the outcome. And slowing things down, in these historic areas, is the point. Ask the people who used to live in Freedmen’s Town if they think easing the throttle on rapid development is a feature or a bug. As for the call for a vote, that’s just a page from the anti-rail playbook, in which the solution to something you don’t like is to keep calling for the people to vote on whatever it is you don’t like in the hope that sooner or later they’ll vote against it.

Anyway, there’s more to read there and at the Swamplot link, so go take a look; see also these relevant links from the Planning Office. The press release from the Mayor’s office, with a list of dates and locations for public meetings about the proposed changes, is beneath the fold.

Mayor Parker Announces Proposed Historic Preservation Ordinance Amendments

Public Urged to Comment

The City of Houston is proposing amendments to the Historic Preservation Ordinance that will protect historic properties within city-designated historic districts.  The proposed changes include:

  • Elimination of the 90-day waiver for historic properties when a Certificate of Appropriateness is denied by the Houston Archaeological and     Historical Commission
  • A revised historic district designation process
  • Clarifications regarding the use of new building materials

“The amendments are in keeping with my pledge to provide permanent protection for our historic districts,” said Mayor Annise Parker.  “These neighborhoods are living examples of Houston’s early beginnings.  We have a responsibility to preserve this architecture and character for future generations.”

A series of public meetings are planned through September to receive comments on the proposed amendments. Information about these meetings and a draft of the proposed ordinance can be found online at  In addition to the public meetings, the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission, the Planning Commission and City Council must review any changes before adoption.

Meeting dates

July 27, 2010 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.
All Existing and Proposed Historic Districts
Houston Community College Central College
San Jacinto Auditorium
1300 Holman
July 29, 2010 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.
Avondale East and West, Courtlandt Place, Audubon Place,
First Montrose Commons, Boulevard Oaks, Broadacres, Shadow Lawn,
West Eleventh Place, Main Street/Market Square, Old Sixth Ward and
Westmoreland Historic Districts
St. Stephens Church
1805 Alabama
August 3, 2010 6:00 P.M. To 8:00 P.M.
Norhill, Woodland Heights and Freeland Historic Districts
Proctor Plaza Community Center
803 West Temple
August 5, 2010 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.
Glenbrook Valley Historic District
Glenbrook Methodist Church
8635 Glen Valley
August 10, 2010 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.
Heights East, West and South Historic Districts
United Way
50 Waugh

Residents who are unable to attend one of the public meetings, but would like to comment may email to [email protected] or mail comments to Historic Preservation, City of Houston, Planning and Development Department, P.O. Box 1562, Houston, Texas  77251-1562.  Comments must be received by August 10, 2010.

Related Posts:

One Comment

  1. […] been in it a couple of times for events. I support efforts to update the existing ordinance, and I like what I’ve seen so far, but I’m certainly open to what they have to say. The goal is the best preservation ordinance […]