Aug 222016
 

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 cpcinfo@nola.gov and ask them to support the Uptown/Carrollton and Mid City/Parkview historic districts.

Sandra Stokes is the president of the Louisiana Landmarks Society.

  • Turlet

    Why should the Historic Landmarks District Commission have any power or authority at all when they are in favor of the destruction of some of our most cherished historic landmarks? You tell us to hire wolves as shepherds.

  • Drew Ward

    Good proposal, Sandra!

    If this is all they were going for from the beginning, the reception would have likely been far better. Of course, if the City truly wanted to do this right and get public support, they would put this expansion on the ballot in November so that we could actually vote whether or not we, as property owners, want this burden added to our properties which were not so burdened when we bought them.

    If the version they go with is yours as proposed above, I’d imagine voters would have no problem opting into this, but otherwise it’s likely it’d be voted down which is also likely exactly why Landrieu has refused to allow any sort of democratic process to take place regarding this issue.

    Of course, another thing that would likely get voters and property owners behind an HDLC expansion would be to allow the subject neighbourhoods to select their own HDLC commissioners, rather than being expected to trust their fate and collective welfare to yet another of Landrieu’s unelected boards and commissions of political supporter appointees.