Council passes revised historic preservation ordinance

I’m glad to see that City Council finally passed the long-awaited and much-revised historic preservation ordinance, and even more glad to see that the 90-day waiver for demolitions has been excised, so that what we have now is an actual ordinance and not merely a preservation suggestion. But it’s clear that the fight is a long way from being over.

“In a lot of ways, our work has just begun,” said Bill Baldwin, a Heights-area realtor and founding member of Responsible Historic Preservation for Houston.

Individual property owners should be able to choose to preserve the buildings they own, Baldwin said. He also warned that there will be significantly less investment in historic districts because demolition or even remodeling will be more expensive, and they may become less welcoming to new people.

“I have concerns on my neighborhood’s continued ability to be progressive and meet the needs of a growing and diverse city,” he said. “This is very burdensome for young couples, older couples or others who are facing other alternate choices for their habitation.”

Baldwin said he planned to begin to immediately gather support to rescind the historic status of his neighborhood in the Heights.

Council on Wednesday made that reconsideration process easier in an amendment to Parker’s proposal. Those who want their neighborhood to lose its historic designation must collect the signatures of 10 percent of property owners and turn them in to the city within 30 days. That will trigger a public meeting and a survey from the city’s Planning and Development Department. If 51 percent of property owners oppose the designation, the planning director must either recommend to City Council reducing the size of the district or eliminating it. Council is not bound to follow the recommendation.

We’ll see how that goes – it won’t be long before we know how many neighborhoods will undergo the reconsideration process. If a few wind up being a little smaller, I’ll take that trade. Otherwise, I’m glad this got done. Hair Balls and Swamplot have more, and an email from CM Sue Lovell, sent out later in the day that this passed, is reprinted below.

A Historic Moment for Houston

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Today, October 13, 2010, at City Council, we passed a new historic preservation ordinance that protects and preserves the history of our city. The Council vote was 12-3, which shows strong support for historic preservation. I want to thank Mayor Parker for giving me the responsibility for this very important issue and for her trust. I want to thank my colleagues (even those who voted no) for their input and advice and willingness to compromise.

I want to thank my staff for their many hours of hard work. I want to thank the Legal Department—particularly City Attorney David Feldman, Deborah McAbee, and Omar Izfar—for their patience and legal skills. I still don’t understand why plain English can’t be used in a legal document, but I appreciate their efforts in trying to explain it to me.

Thank you to the Planning Department—Director Marlene Gafrick, Deputy Director Michael Schaffer, and their team—for the hundreds of hours they spent to guarantee a transparent process that ensured that property owners were heard. Thank you to the Mayor’s staff and a special thanks to Marty Stein, the Mayor’s agenda director, and her staff for keeping us organized. Minnette Boesel, the Mayor’s assistant for cultural affairs, was awesome.

I appreciate all the time spent and suggestions from the stakeholders group, which included the Greater Houston Builders Association (represented by Adam Aschmann), Houstonians for Responsible Growth (represented by Josh Sanders), the Houston Building Owners and Managers Association, and the Houston Association of Realtors.

To the thousands of Houstonians who showed how much they care about their neighborhoods and spent hours of their time to attend meetings, write emails and letters, and make phone calls, I want you to know that I share your love of Houston. We now have a historic preservation ordinance that really does preserve the history of our city.


Sue Lovell

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4 Responses to Council passes revised historic preservation ordinance

  1. John says:

    Having owned a home in a historic district in another city (and profited from it) I have to roll my eyes at Baldwin’s comments. You’d think there had never been such a thing as historic preservation before to hear this stuff – one would hope that real estate professionals would be a little smarter than this, but, apparently not.

  2. mollusk says:

    Bill Baldwin made a lot of his money representing “scrape it off” developers. As for supposedly rescinding the designation of his own neighborhood, it ain’t in place yet – it was on hold, pending finalization and passage of this ordinance.

  3. mollusk says:

    (hit wrong key)

    Anyway, his claim to be looking out for “young couples, older couples,” etc. is really a bit precious – the builders he represents buy bungalows, tear them down, and build giant McMansions that are affordable for young couples only if they have a big trust fund.

  4. Pingback: Historic preservation has been preserved – Off the Kuff

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