The guidelines that govern the appearance of Georgetown’s Historic District are getting an overhaul.
The city has hired Terri Foley, a historic consultant, to work with the Building and Planning Department in the rewriting of the laws that stipulate the rules for both residential and commercial properties.
Foley, who has a B.S. in Historic Preservation and a minor in Architectural Design, met with the Georgetown Historic District Homeowner’s Association this week to talk about some of the changes that will be made.
“You have a lot of history here and it needs to be preserved,” Foley said as she began her presentation. “I have looked over the residential and commercial guidelines and there are some changes that will take place.”
She said steps need to be taken to make sure the historic homes and buildings remain as they are because “once you lose your buildings you have lost your history.”
The current and new guidelines are in place, she said, “to preserve history and the fabric of the buildings.”
One new area of rules that will be enacted — if approved by City Council — will be a section of guidelines in maintaining structures. Foley said there will be rules about things that need to take place every six months and other time intervals to help preserve the historic buildings.
One thing the new rules will not allow, Foley said, is HardiePlank siding which, according to Foley, is one of the “most controversial issues” she faces when dealing with historic districts.
The City is the defendant in lawsuits filed by property owner Steve Rothrock because he has been denied permission to use HardiePlank siding on his Cannon Street home.
Foley said HardiePlank is not being allowed because it “is not accurate to wood siding” and it “does not give the right shadow line.”
She told the audience many people want HardiePlank because they believe it is maintenance free.
“You still have to paint it and it does not replicate what used to be there. Going back to wood is more accurate,” she said.
The new guidelines will be more stringent on what is allowed on the outside of a home.
“If you take off wood siding and put on vinyl siding, it changes the characterization of the home,” Foley said.
She said she recommends people thinking about buying a property in a historic district learn the guidelines before making the purchase so they will know if they will be happy owning a home or business with stricter rules to follow.
She also said the new guidelines will be written in language everyone can understand.
“It will be more detailed than people are accustomed to seeing,” she said.
The new guidelines will be presented to the City Planning Commission and then to City Council before they can be enacted.
By Scott Harper
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