When most people think of the Heights, they think historic homes. They may even be familiar with the Heights Historic Districts. That’s right, districts. What we commonly think of as the Historic Heights is actually a collection of 5 distinct districts designated in the Historic Preservation Ordinance of 2010: Houston Heights East, West, South, Norhill, and Woodland Heights, not including nearby Freeland and Germantown. And those are just a portion of Houston’s 22 historic districts.
The oft-misunderstood Houston Heights historic districts are outlined in the map above, along with the rest of the city’s historic districts. So, the next time you hear someone say that all of the Heights is historic, know that it’s a little more complicated than that and send them our way. Truth be told, one of the reasons we call the Heights home is because of all of the niceties and nuance of selling here.
But we digress…
In a nutshell, being in a historic district means that you and your neighbors are most likely limited in how you can alter your property. That includes restoration, rehabilitation, additions, exterior alterations, new construction, relocation and even the demolition of what’s known as “contributing structures,” which are essentially the structures whose preservation play a key role in maintaining the historic character of the district. The review process deeming what can and can’t happen with properties in the historic districts takes place through the Historic Preservation Office of the Planning & Development Department, with some items going before the Houston Archaeological & Historical Commission depending on the scenario.
Since the inception of the ordinance in 2010, both residents and a wide collection of stakeholders that includes builders, realtors, and architects doing business in the Heights have called for design guidelines. The goal is to have a reference for what specifically constitutes appropriate construction or alteration within the districts.
For over a year and a half, the City of Houston has been working with the Heights community to develop design guidelines for the three Houston Heights Historic Districts (East, West, and South). Through community workshops and surveys of residents of these historic districts, the City developed a draft of design guidelines for the Houston Heights Historic Districts, that is now available. Landan Kuhlmann detailed why these guidelines are necessary in an article for The Leader:
“The City of Houston currently has 22 historic districts, and its Historic Preservation Ordinance is written broadly to apply to all of them. Design guidelines will be district specific and illustrate how the ordinance applies to a single historic district. The project is the first to create design guidelines for existing historic districts.”
Now that a draft of the guidelines is available, it’s going to be brought back to the community for review and comment.
Next Tuesday, June 20th, a community meeting will be held from 6 to 8 PM at the historic Heights Fire Station for those interested to have their voices heard.
These new guidelines could mean major changes for Heights historic restrictions. The current draft of the guidelines would tighten home additions, improvements, and new construction in fairly significant ways. To understand what the guidelines would mean for the Heights, it’s critical to review this current draft and discuss with your neighbors. This community meeting on the draft design guidelines is your last chance to get up to speed and comment before the public input period ends on June 30th. After June 30th, the draft will be revised before going to City Council for approval.
If you’re not yet convinced this is worth attending, here are the ways we think you might be a stakeholder :
- If you own a house in a historic district or even adjacent to one, this meeting is definitely for you since this affects your property value.
- If you plan on buying or dream of buying a house in the Heights, this meeting is for you. This is true even if you don’t plan on buying in a historic district. Why? Because the home values for houses and land really aren’t the same in historic districts and non-historic parts of the Heights.
- If you plan on selling your Heights home – in or out of a historic district. Why? Pretty much the same as above, these guidelines could affect your home values.
- If you’re a builder. Because knowing what you can and cannot build makes you a better builder throughout the entire process for your clients.
- If you’re planning on building in the Heights. Because knowing what you can and cannot build can save you money, time and headaches.
- If you have a family or plan on starting a family and you want to expand your Heights Historic District home. Or perhaps you have aging parents who may need to move in with you. Why? Because the new guidelines define how much you can expand or add onto your house.
As with any land use regulation, there are supporters and opponents. We want you to decide for yourself. Whether we support or oppose this draft isn’t nearly as important as everyone having the chance to get informed and chime in.
We hope you’ll come hear and be heard with us on Tuesday!
If you have any questions, your can always reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org as we are your Heights resource!This entry was posted in Rediscover, Resources
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