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Historic preservation has been preserved


THE RESULTS ARE in, and it looks like the great campaign todissolve Houston’s historic districts has been a bit of a bust. Houston planning director Marlene Gafrick reports that the “survey period” for Heights East, Heights West, Heights South, Boulevard Oaks, and Avondale West historic districts has closed and that the planning department has determined that “none of the districts achieved the 51% threshold that requires the Planning Director to recommend repeal of the designation or, in the case of Heights South, recommend denying the designation.” Neighborhood meetings and subsequent “surveys” for 2 more districts — Norhill and First Montrose Commons — haven’t taken place yet (the meetings are scheduled for January 8th and 18th, respectively). That’s it for the 7 districts where petitions from owners triggered the “reconsideration” provisions of thepreservation ordinance changes city council approved last fall. According to the new ordinance, if owners of 51 percent of the lots in any of the districts had returned notices sent to them by the city, the districts might have been dissolved — or, more likely, had their boundaries adjusted.

However, as noted in a subsequent post, these districts could still be altered.

Gafrick will be required to send a report to city council recommending one of 3 options for each of them. For Heights East, Heights West, Heights South, Boulevard Oaks, and Avondale West, the first option — dissolving the district entirely — is out. But Gafrick can still recommend adjusting the boundaries of a district — even if the returned surveys didn’t reach the 51 percent threshold. (Her third option: recommend city council do nothing — and keep the district as it is.)

In an email to Swamplot [Wednesday], planning department public affairs director Suzy Hartgrove says Gafrick plans to look carefully at where the surveys came from: “What we are in the middle of now is really evaluating the data received, mapping it and coming up with that recommendation,” she writes. Since those surveys will likely become available to anyone making an open-records request, locating concentrations of owners who want out of their districts sounds like a good idea. Though the ordinance allows Gafrick to come to her own conclusions, she won’t be making the final decision, Hartgrove notes:

Ultimately, it is [up to] the Mayor and Council to make the decision. They don’t have to take our recommendation. I don’t have the date of when these items will go to Council.

So there you have it. More background is here, here, and here. Now maybe all of those pro and anti signs will finally get put away. Until the next tweak to the ordinance, anyway.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story.

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