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Author Topic: Neighborhood Conservation Districts - Thoughts?  (Read 21752 times)
PonderInc
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« on: November 27, 2007, 03:01:31 pm »

If you've been following the Preserve Midtown movement, or read Michael Bates' column in the Urban Tulsa, then you've heard of a thing called "Neighborhood Conservation Districts."  This is a tool that allows neighborhoods to set certain standards for infill development; to ensure, for example, that new homes fit into the context of older neighborhoods.  This may involve standards as simple as setback, scale, location of garage, etc.  Or a neighborhood could set more strict guidelines if they have a specific architectural style they want to preserve.

Tulsa does not have an ordinance allowing for the creation of Neighborhood Conservation Districts, but I think it sounds like a good step in the right direction.  However, I also believe we need to learn more about this concept.  I'd like to know which cities offer the best models for us to follow (both from a neighborhood perspective and an administrative perspective).

I'm interested to hear from those who have knowledge of how this works in other cities.  OKC has had an ordinance on the books for years.  How has it worked out for them?  Other towns?  Please let us know.

http://www.preservemidtown.com/
http://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A18457
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Double A
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« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2007, 03:18:08 pm »

What happened to the moratorium? Conservation Districts are a great tool, but what is the point if there's nothing left to conserve?
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PonderInc
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« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2007, 03:30:42 pm »

If you go the the Preserve Midtown site, you'll see that their petition still includes the moratorium language.  However, in this thread, I'm specifically trying to gather information on Conservation Districts.
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Floyd
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« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2007, 03:44:02 pm »

I'm a huge fan of preservation.  But, for the sake of argument, there are two potential major downsides to Conservation Districts, at least that I can come up with off the top of my head.

1) Banning teardowns in certain neighborhoods does little more than preserve shacks and prevent overall property values from increasing.  This is the case in districts where there is a good number of rundown properties among the charming, kept-up houses.  An example of this that comes to mind in Tulsa is north of Cherry Street.  A ban on teardowns in that neighborhood would ultimately hurt revitalization projects because of the number of dilapidated properties that would be "preserved" for slumlords and stray cats, decreasing the incentive for neighboring property owners to maintain their own houses.  

2) There is also a danger of cookie cutter building.  Some CDs allow teardowns but include design requirements for the rebuilds. Then it becomes economical for builders to turn to the same three blueprints, over and over, in order to safely adhere to the requirements.  For instance, if you require a rear garage in new construction, it is much cheaper to stick with the same legal design than to find multiple creative ways to incorporate a multi-car driveway.

That said, I think the key is to make the review process as painless as possible, which means an active citizens group willing to particpate in the overview process.  These CDs typically come from the grassroots level--there has to be a neighborhood consensus that such ordinances will improve aesthetics and property values.
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Kenosha
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« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2007, 05:05:40 pm »

The problem with any type of design overlay is 1)The degree to which the "guidelines" attempt to control development, and 2) the administration of said guideline, i.e. who is administering them.

As far as new construction is concerned, you have to be very careful to avoid regulating "taste", because it is such a subjective thing.  Proportion, setback, scale are things you should be able to regulate, but things like materials (to a degree), style and "attractiveness" should not be subject to regulation...just my opinion.  Plus, I think you could subject the city to multiple lawsuits if you attempt to do so.  

I would submit that the Secretary of the Interior's guidelines for new construction in a historic district specify that a 'historic' style need not and should not be duplicated, as to avoid confusion about what is and isn't historic.  This goes to say that contemporary, modern, or post-modern architecture can fit within a historic district, given that it obeys certain mandates, such as proportion, rhythm, and scale...

This is part of the problem that I have with the whole "preserve midtown" movement.  It's that it is largely based on what some people think is "ugly" or "appropriate". WTH does "appropriate" mean?  What is "ugly"? Can we come to a consensus on this? Probably not.

I have no disagreement with the oversized home or 'snout house' argument. I agree with it, in fact.  I disagree that new construction in midtown should be limited by style. The 'no more Mediterranean' houses argument holds little water for me.  In 50 years, we may find that, as the Tudor style was popular in the 30's and the streamline moderne was popular in the 40's and the Lortondale Modern was the rage in the 50's, that the Mediterranean revival will be cherished as those homes are.  So, don't be short sighted.  And remember, Frank Lloyd Wright himself did not build homes that "fit the neighborhood".  Look at the Jenk Lloyd Jones home right here in Tulsa.
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TheArtist
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« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2007, 07:30:32 pm »

I like that conservation districts are made by that neighborhood. They basically act as enabling legislation for each neighborhood to find their own way. We may find that some neighborhoods are more strict than others, but thats fine imo. Also I think the fact that it will take many of the people in each neighborhood to write the regulations, that in itself will have a moderating effect, unlikely to be too extreme, compromises will have to be reached.

As for the moratorium, sure push for it if you want but get those Conservation Districts in place as soon as possible. You may find that you will be able to get that done quicker and easier than any moratorium.

 The city can put in place the Conservation District legislation, but it will still take time for each neighborhood to come up with its own regulations.  If they so desire.  The city putting concervation district legislation on the books does not do anything to regulate what is built, torn down etc. Its those neighborhood regulations that they each write up which makes the difference. A moratorium can not be used to have any influence on the speed and direction those take. A neighborhood could simply choose to drag their feet or agrue forever, keeping the moratorium in place.
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PonderInc
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« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2007, 12:03:38 pm »

quote:
Originally posted by Floyd

 2) ...There is also a danger of cookie cutter building.  Some CDs allow teardowns but include design requirements for the rebuilds. Then it becomes economical for builders to turn to the same three blueprints, over and over, in order to safely adhere to the requirements.  For instance, if you require a rear garage in new construction, it is much cheaper to stick with the same legal design than to find multiple creative ways to incorporate a multi-car driveway....


I agree with this concern.  But at the same time, much of the problem with infill today is that builders are already using their cookie-cutter designs....designs they pull right out of the suburban stylebook!  

My current neighborhood was built mostly in the 50's...lots of single-story brick ranch houses.  I can't tell you how weird it looks when someone sticks a south-Tulsa "Big Garage/Big Roof" house in the middle of this neighborhood.  

But my main problem with the newer construction isn't about taste/perceived ugliness.  I think it's bad for a neighborhood when you replace front porches and front windows with the blank stare of a multi-car garage.  And I think that scale and setback matter.

I live next door to a modest home on a big lot...and I'm terrified that someone will buy it and fill the entire lot with a monstrosity.  I know that this would have a negative impact on my home value...regardless of how much the new home might cost...or how many square feet it might have.  
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RecycleMichael
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« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2007, 12:18:49 pm »

The guy next door to me built a humongous two story attached garage...with four bedrooms upstairs for his kids. It is probably over 2,000 square feet and the garage doors face the street. It is ugly as hell and covered in siding that isn't even close to the color of his stone home.

But it is in east Tulsa...no one cares about east Tulsa.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife department built two metal buildings right on east 21st street and put razor wire fence around the perimeter.
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« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2007, 12:29:06 pm »

quote:
Originally posted by recyclemichael



But it is in east Tulsa...no one cares about east Tulsa.




District 5 is more midtown than east Tulsa. That's like saying District 4 is in north Tulsa.
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RecycleMichael
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« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2007, 04:41:40 pm »

I don't know why you challenge me doubleA. I live on Mingo Creek.

Who thinks that Mingo Creek is in midtown?
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Rico
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« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2007, 07:19:43 pm »

This may be just a break in the latest "squabble"...........

But could I please ask what happened to Geronimo's House...

Was it tear-down, infill, mcmansions, or just a "squabble" between white, red, and brown...?



[Wink]
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Kenosha
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« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2007, 11:24:53 pm »

quote:
Originally posted by TheArtist

I like that conservation districts are made by that neighborhood. They basically act as enabling legislation for each neighborhood to find their own way. We may find that some neighborhoods are more strict than others, but thats fine imo. Also I think the fact that it will take many of the people in each neighborhood to write the regulations, that in itself will have a moderating effect, unlikely to be too extreme, compromises will have to be reached.


So let me get this straight.  Each neighborhood will set up it's own "conservation commission" and vote on proposed new additions, and/or changes in their neighborhood. How do you get appointed to the commission?  How do you keep what has happened in Swan Lake from happening, where you essentially have one person running the neighborhood "association".  To whom do these commissions report?  What is the process for appealing these decisions?  On commercial corridors, does the neighborhood have jurisdiction over both sides of the street or just the side of the arterial that the neighborhood is on?

That is a crazy idea.  Having however many different standards and rules will completely cripple development in Tulsa.  I can't imagine the bureaucracy that would create.  The current HP areas ALREADY have too many different guidelines.  If anything, they need to be unified. Swan Lake has some that Yorktown doesn't and vice versa...and Brady Heights...not even written in the same form as the rest (and frankly, theirs are the best of the lot).

I would also remind you that Conservation Districts are not supposed to LESS restrictive, not more, which is the appeal of them in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, I understand wanting to protect your investment and the feeling emotional and nostalgic pull of these older homes (mine was built in 1929), but there is a fine line between that, and having your neighbors tell you what you can and can't do on your property.  I, personally, wouldn't have the balls to walk up to my neighbor and tell him that the windows he is putting in his house look cheap because they aren't made of wood, and by the way, please tear them out and put wood ones in.  I just don't have that in me.  But there are a lot of people out there who, apparently have nothing better to do, and are more than willing to "police" their neighborhood.  I think it is a sickness, personally, but who am I to judge.

quote:
As for the moratorium, sure push for it if you want but get those Conservation Districts in place as soon as possible. You may find that you will be able to get that done quicker and easier than any moratorium.


Moratorium? Citywide? on Teardowns?

Never. Gonna. Happen.

It is a completely untenable idea, and a massive overreaction to a perceived problem in a relatively small section of the city.  As recyclemike mentioned, I doubt if anyone is truly concerned with teardowns at 21st and Garnett.  They just wish someone would build something besides a strip mall out there.

A little tangent about Ranch Acres.  Again, I get the nostalgia part of it...many people grew up in homes like those, and have fond memories of it I am sure... but they simply don't have the architectural appeal of an arts and crafts foursquare, or a craftsman bungalow, or an art deco streamline moderne.  I just have to say...WHY in the world would anyone want build a Ranch Style house in this day and age?  Do they really expect someone to come in and duplicate that style of home?  Lortondale, maybe...at least those have sorta open floorplans, and contemporary lines, but ranch?  I am just not seeing it.  Not unless is is a duplication of the one of FLW's designs, like the Robie House.  What's next? Split levels with aluminum windows?  What Ranch Acres should be doing is trying to reverse some of the negative urban design features of the neighborhood, such as lack of sidewalks.  I suppose they want to preserve that too...  
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« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2007, 12:41:00 am »

The proposed moratorium is for Districts 4 and 9. I think this moratorium would spur development in Districts 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6. That would be a good thing.
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« Reply #13 on: November 29, 2007, 09:55:30 am »

quote:
Originally posted by Kenosha
So let me get this straight.  Each neighborhood will set up it's own "conservation commission" and vote on proposed new additions, and/or changes in their neighborhood. How do you get appointed to the commission?  How do you keep what has happened in Swan Lake from happening, where you essentially have one person running the neighborhood "association".  To whom do these commissions report?  What is the process for appealing these decisions?  On commercial corridors, does the neighborhood have jurisdiction over both sides of the street or just the side of the arterial that the neighborhood is on?

That is a crazy idea.  Having however many different standards and rules will completely cripple development in Tulsa.  I can't imagine the bureaucracy that would create.  The current HP areas ALREADY have too many different guidelines.  If anything, they need to be unified. Swan Lake has some that Yorktown doesn't and vice versa...and Brady Heights...not even written in the same form as the rest (and frankly, theirs are the best of the lot).

I would also remind you that Conservation Districts are not supposed to LESS restrictive, not more, which is the appeal of them in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, I understand wanting to protect your investment and the feeling emotional and nostalgic pull of these older homes (mine was built in 1929), but there is a fine line between that, and having your neighbors tell you what you can and can't do on your property.  I, personally, wouldn't have the balls to walk up to my neighbor and tell him that the windows he is putting in his house look cheap because they aren't made of wood, and by the way, please tear them out and put wood ones in.  I just don't have that in me.  But there are a lot of people out there who, apparently have nothing better to do, and are more than willing to "police" their neighborhood.  I think it is a sickness, personally, but who am I to judge.




While there are lots of different ways to do a conservation district, I believe what Artist was trying to stress is not the enforcement, but that each neighborhood will base the guidelines on what currently exists in their neighborhood--enforcement will most likely come from another entity (tmapc or tpc).  Again, different cities have different criteria, but primarily all conservation districts deal with very objective standards (unlike HP, in which a lot is subjective and simply based upon the "right" fit)--such as height, set backs, garage placement, overall footprint of the structure.  While there would be different "guidelines" for each neighborhood (which is the whole point--you want it to fit into the specific neighborhood, not the entire city), enforcement would be much easier, since either you meet it or you don't.  I think it is unlikely that the "taste police" will control the process.  Already, builders must deal with a multitude of setback, FAR, height restrictions depending on the neighborhood.  I wouldn't think it would be so burdensome to determine the correct requirements for the neighborhood. And in fact most houses out south in newer neighborhoods have many more restriction through their covenants.  Builders seem to be able to adapt to that.
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« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2007, 02:00:45 pm »

What they are trying to do is get the legal framework, the mechanisms in place. Once the city has that process, wording, mechanism, etc. in place for Conservation Districts its then up to each neighborhood to come up with the specifics for its neighborhood. Its not a one size fits all thing that the city sets up and suddenly every area of the city is good to go. The city may set it up and a neighborhood not even elect to bother with writing the rules for its area, so there would be no conservation district there.

The city creates a "conservation district mechanism" putting in place a legal, framework, rules, process and procedures. That, then allows each individual neighborhood to be able to create the specific requirements the "Conservation District" for its particular neighborhood. If a neighborhood doesnt do anything, there wont be anything there. Each neighborhood may come up with different regulations and such depending on the concerns and specifics of that neighborhood. You even have to have a certain percentage of people in the neighborhood approve of the rules that the neighborhood comes up with, in order for it to pass. If it doesnt pass, there will be no conservation district there. The city is being asked to set up the legal structure that "enables" it to be so, they dont make it so.  

I dont know all the legal jargon. Just trying to get the general idea across, as I understand it, for what is being done.
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