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Planning the Project

Before buying materials, beginning the work or applying for a building permit (if needed), contact to the Historic Preservation Coordinator at 269-337-8804. Describe your project in as much detail as possible. Provide drawings, photographs and measurements if available.

The Historic Preservation Coordinator can approve some types of work, if it falls within the commission's standards for administrative approval. Four out of five projects are approved administratively. These standards cover common repairs such as a new roof, rebuilding steps, installing storm windows and doors, some fencing projects and satellite dish installation. Administrative approval eliminates the need for the property owner to attend a Commission meeting. Projects which also require a building permit will be charged an additional historic review fee for the permit.

If the proposed work falls outside of the standards, or if it falls within the categories that require HDC approval (i.e., signage or demolition) attendance at an HDC meeting is necessary. The HDC has established guidelines that are used to evaluate the appropriateness or impact of an alteration. A hearing fee is charged for all projects that go to the Historic District Commission.

Applications are available on-line, can be picked up at the Community Planning & Development Department, or can be mailed, faxed, or emailed by the Coordinator. The Coordinator may request to meet and review your application. The coordinator will also take photographs of the structure and proposed work area, which will be used at the HDC meeting.

While filling out the application, it is important to include all relevant support materials, sketches of the proposed work, measurements and other specifications. Complete materials and a clear submission are vital to a quick review. Be as specific as possible. You may provide your own, additional photographs - either current or historic, if available. The application and support materials are due to the office at least one week prior to the scheduled HDC meeting - by 5:00 pm on the second Tuesday. Your materials will be provided to the HDC in advance of the meeting. HDC members are encouraged to visit all the structures on the meeting agenda, so it is common to see them at the site in advance of the meeting.

You will receive written notification that your application will be reviewed at the HDC meeting, including a copy of the agenda with the approximate time of the hearing for your structure, a copy of your application, and any additional information that the Coordinator has added. The agenda is divided into 15 minute sections, with each hearing schedule at a specific time. It is recommended to arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled hearing. If you are unable to attend the meeting, it is suggested that your contractor, architect, or another representative attend in your place. This representative must be able to make a binding decision on your behalf. This assures all participants that questions can be answered, additional information provided, or modifications made as necessary, and that unnecessary delays are avoided. In the event that no representative attends and the HDC is left without needed information, the application will be postponed until the next regularly scheduled meeting.

The Commission and Hearing

Applications are reviewed individually at the meeting.

  1. The Historic Preservation Coordinator presents information about the project. A staff report on the project is included in the meeting packet mailed in advance to the commissioners and to the applicant. The coordinator also presents photographs and images of the project, the project site and the plans using a media projector.
  2. The applicant or their representative is invited to address the Commission adding any relevant details. The commissioners may have questions for the applicant and owner. A discussion then takes place with the Commissioners who question the Coordinator and the Applicant in attempt to reach a full understanding of the project and its impact on the historic property.
  3. At this point the hearing is closed to discussion and the commission begins deliberation using Roberts Rules of Order.
  4. A commissioner will propose a motion, possibly based on motions in the staff report.
  5. Further discussion may continue and eventually a vote is taken following Robert's Rules of Order. A motion requires a quorum of the appointed members (four or more) to pass. A quorum of members present is sufficient for administrative decisions.
  6. If the application is approved or approved with conditions, the applicant will receive a Certificate of Appropriateness within ten days - more commonly by the end of the week after the meeting.
  7. A decision on the application may be postponed for more information. The letter to the applicant will specify the additional materials or information required before the commission will place the application back on the agenda.
  8. If the application is denied, the applicable Secretary of Interior's Standard is cited. In the letter of denial, the applicant will receive information on alternate work plans for the project, which may be acceptable to the commission. The letter will also include information on how the denial can be appealed to the State Historic Preservation Review Board as required by city ordinance and PA 169.

Administrative approval 

The Historic Preservation Coordinator can approve many common projects, usually within 24 hours. Projects can be presented to the Coordinator by calling 337-8804 or sending an email. Approvals can frequently be made by phone or email, including:

  • Re-roofing - dark 3-in-1 or architectural asphalt shingles, dark drip edge.
  • Gutters - half round or K-style metal.
  • Porch repairs - railing and steps, handrail to approved design in cedar or redwood.
  • Storm windows - wood or color finished combination storms mounted on the blind stop.
  • Fencing - several types approved, wood at front half of house, other styles at rear.
  • Repairs that do not change the historic character of the building.

Proposed work must conform exactly to the City's Historic District Standards and Guidelines for Rehabilitation standards to qualify for administrative approval.

Commission Review

More complex projects are reviewed at the monthly meeting of the Historic District Commission (3rd Tuesday, 5PM, City Hall Commission Chambers). These are projects that will change the building by addition or demolition or replacement:

  • Restoration of a missing porch or parts of a porch
  • Enclosing a porch with screens
  • Roofing besides asphalt such as slate, cement tile or metal
  • Windows - moving, replacing, adding or removing
  • Doors - replacement or removal
  • Decks - added in the rear only
  • Uncommon fencing - brick or stone walls, iron, other wooden designs
  • Trim - repairing and replacing ornamental trims
  • Satellite dishes - placement
  • Demolition of a structure
  • Moving a structure
  • New construction, such as houses, outbuildings, garages and additions
  • Signs
  • Many other projects