As I have noted in previous writing (here and here), historic preservation policy for private properties in Winter Park needs to offer meaningful incentives and be less threatening to encourage voluntary participation.
Current policy and the proposed draft both compel private owners into compliance with a deeply flawed “historic district” policy. Current policy requires a 66+% vote of neighbors to compel participation of 100% of properties within a proposed district. The draft policy proposes to reduce this threshold to 50+% resulting in even more likely neighborhood fights and related legal action.
When a critical mass of our 8,500 single family property owners find out about this 50% threshold the policy will result in political push back with new people running for city commission to reverse such a policy if enacted. There is no value in neighborhood fights, legal battles, or political turmoil in Winter Park.
So, what do we do to increase the quality and meaningfulness of historic preservation in Winter Park?
Here are some specific ideas:
- Replace the ability of the HPB to arbitrarily grant variances with a simple incentive of 5% increased floor area ratio when properties are improved/redeveloped (thanks to George Wiggins for this concept). Historic properties will still have to meet other boundary conditions such as height, setback, and impervious coverage limits.
This change will assure property owners that planned improvements to their “historic” home can take advantage of available floor area at least on an equal basis with non-“historic” homes, and that they can benefit from increased floor area by designating their home historic.
Removing variance approvals by HBP will avoid the current practice of granting variances simply to get another home listed as “historic” at the expense of arbitrary variances imposing on neighboring homes. All variances should remain with the Board of Adjustments subject to existing hardship rules.
- Limit the authority of HPB review and approval to street facing façades.
Private homes are exactly that, private, meaning no one can visit the home without permission of the owner. Therefore, the only community value of a private home designated “historic” is what is seen from the street. While owners of historically designated properties will likely seek to preserve interior layouts and materials such details are not within the city’s purview other than to enforce building codes equally applicable to all properties.
- Add a new R1H zoning class for properties included both on the Winter Park Registry of Historic Places and on the National Register of Historic Places to encourage national registration. This residential zoning class would allow for limited public tours at the owner’s discretion coordinated with the city, have a unique identifying plaque paid for by the city, and have special recognition in city documents and media materials (among perhaps other benefits, ideas?).
- Make all designations whether “historic” or “contributing” voluntary on the part of the property owner.
The character and quality of historic preservation in Winter Park will improve under policies that are voluntary, and that invite participation with meaningful incentives and regulatory limits respecting the private nature of the property.
Let’s vet these ideas and ideas from others to improve historic preservation in Winter Park on a voluntary basis.
Regards, Pete Weldon