We survived our first encounter with the historic district approval process relatively unscathed. We are thinking about doing an addition to the back of our house to add a new bedroom, bathroom, office, and utility room/pantry. Since we live in the Junius Heights historic district, we have to get a certificate of appropriateness (CA) before we can get a building permit. The CA certifies that the work we’re proposing to do is appropriate for the architecture of the historic district.
The first step in the CA process is to have your proposed change reviewed by the task force. The task force is composed of a representative from the city historic district office (that’s not their real name, but I don’t know what the real name is and I’m too lazy to bother looking it up) and several neighborhood residents. I didn’t know what exactly the task force does, but I was third in line the other night so I got to see it in action for a little while. Best I can figure they look at your proposed work and either tell you that your stuff is OK or they tell you where it isn’t within the rules and help you think of some other way to do it that would be within the rules.
Luckily since the stuff we’re doing is all at the back it got approved without any modifications. They generally don’t care what you do at the back of the house as long as it is consistent with the rest of the house and isn’t visible from the street and we met both of those criteria. The historic district is pretty new (as a historic district that is, obviously if it’s a historic district the houses themselves are all pretty old) and we inadvertently uncovered a contradiction in the rules. A year or two before the historic district rules went in we pulled off all the old brick and vinyl siding and replaced it with HardiPlank siding (or cementitious siding as it is officially known). The historic district rules state in one place that additions have to be done in the same materials as the original part of the house, while in another place they explicitly state that additions cannot have cementitious siding. The thought there was that the houses being added to would have wood siding, and so cementitious siding would not be consistent with the rest of the house. We blew their minds because we had cementitious siding on the original part of the house so to require us to put wood siding on the addition would put us in violation of the rule that the addition has to match the original construction. After some consideration they decided that the consistency part was the important part and said we could go ahead with the HardiPlank siding.
The next step (I think) is that the city staff will review the application and make sure everything looks kosher to them. Then it is off to the Landmark Commission who will give it the official approval at their meeting on January 7.