Ramona Davis of the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance has a long and detailed op-ed in the Sunday paper that makes the case for the new preservation ordinance currently working its way through Council. Here’s a sample of the bullet points:
• Houston’s preservation ordinance does not govern interiors. Section 33-202(c) of the ordinance specifically states, “Nothing in this article shall be construed to authorize the city to regulate the interior characteristics of any building or structure ” Section 33-241(a)(6) clarifies this further, limiting the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission’s authority to approving changes to exterior architectural features visible from the public right of way. The proposed amendments will not change any of this.
• Houston’s preservation ordinance does not govern paint colors. Section 33-237 of the ordinance states, “[historical commission approval] is not required for ordinary maintenance and repair.” Painting is covered under this provision. In addition, the city of Houston does not require permits for painting one- and two-family residences, so there are no mechanisms for the city to dictate paint colors. The proposed amendments will not change any of this.
• Houston’s preservation ordinance does not govern the type of air conditioning units that can be used in historic buildings. Air conditioners are temporary fixtures, not permanent features; therefore, they do not fall under the historical commission’s authority (Section 33-241). The same is true of porch lights, mailboxes and fences. The proposed amendments will not change this.
• Houston’s preservation ordinance does not require property owners to get historical commission approval for emergency repairs. Section 33-236(i) waives this approval “for achieving compliance with the life safety requirements [set forth in the Building Code].” The proposed amendments will not change this.
It’s quite a definitive statement, with a whole lot of factual assertions being made, many of which are intended to “correct” statements being made by the ordinance’s opponents. I look forward to seeing how they respond to this. I will say, the opposition seems to have the advantage so far in public opinion. I see a lot more of these signs than I do of the more-recently-arrived pro-ordinance signs, and those who want to slow this process down have successfully called for a re-vote on the committee. This is a long way from being over.