By Sandra Stokes, president of the Louisiana Landmarks Society
It has become all too familiar in historic neighborhoods – perfectly proportioned historic homes demolished for totally out-of-scale McMansions; harmonious streetscapes marred by inappropriate new construction; or additions that look like cancerous growths on what was a perfectly fine home.
Louisiana Landmarks Society recognizes the advantages of local historic districts in maintaining scale and character in neighborhoods, while providing stability and predictability. At the same time, we also understand the concerns of residents that being subject to the jurisdiction of the Historic Landmarks District Commission (HDLC) might infringe upon their personal property rights.
Most of the neighborhoods that have experienced the onslaught of out-of-scale, out-of-harmony construction didn’t see it coming until it was too late. They did not have proper protections in place. But that can change in allowing at least some regulatory review with the proposed Uptown/Carrollton and Mid City/Parkview historic districts. And we also understand there can be some trade-offs regarding what is reviewable by the HDLC and what is not. We would like to offer a compromise position.
Louisiana Landmarks Society proposes limited review and regulatory authority by the HDLC so as to preserve the character and scale of the community, while allowing for minor changes without any HDLC review. We propose that review take place only in circumstances where major alterations are requested — changes that can affect the streetscape and neighborhood character. These would include:
- Proposals for demolitions
- Demolition by neglect
- New construction
- Alteration of the roofline
- Additions visible from the street
Using these standards, most alterations –including window or door replacements, rear additions, etc. — would not be subject to review. And certainly, options for paint color are not subject to review and are not in any of the HDLC districts. Paint is only subject to review in the Vieux Carre’. Paint color regulation is often mistakenly cited, possibly to instill fear. With this proposed compromise for only major alterations, there would be no regulatory review for light fixtures, burglar bars or anything you can’t see from the street.
Louisiana Landmarks Society does support full review for all changes to architectural elements visible from the public right of way along the significant historic corridors of St. Charles Avenue and S. Carrollton Avenue within the Carrollton/Uptown Districts. We also support expanding the proposed Mid-City Historic District Landmark (HDLC) boundary map to include the area roughly bounded by South St. Patrick, City Park Ave, Iberville St. and I-10 / Pontchartrain Expressway due to many culturally, architecturally and archaeologically significant properties that warrant protection within these boundaries.
Creating new HDLC limited control districts would provide protections for the contextual relationship and scale within existing historic neighborhoods. Review for major alterations could help to ensure that the historic quality and character of these neighborhoods remain intact and contribute to increased property values. Not requiring extra review for most changes to homes should take the fear out of expanding the districts while still providing many benefits for the community.
Please contact the City Planning Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them to support the Uptown/Carrollton and Mid City/Parkview historic districts.
Sandra Stokes is the president of the Louisiana Landmarks Society.