17 March 2009 | Approved: 21 April 2009
Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) members present: Bob Booher, Chair, David Neumann, Margot Bohan, and Mimi Styles. Joe Clark, member of the Town Council (TC) and Liaison to the HPC, was also present. Charlie Challstrom, a member of the Planning Commission and the Town Council was also present
Member Neumann agreed to take minutes for the meeting. The meeting was officially called to order at 7:30pm by the Chair. The agenda proposed by the Chair was reviewed, modified, and then adopted by the members. Minutes of the regular HPC meeting of February 17, 2009 were reviewed and approved unanimously subject to agreed changes that are to be made by Member Neumann.
Review of Projects
There were no projects to be reviewed.
Joe Clark explained that Darrell will be discussing the Legacy Open Space (LOS) law suit with Council members. He recommended that the HPC think about providing their opinion as a commission on zoning, mansionization, etc. He discussed the status of the County and State actions with respect to repair of the Humpback Bridge. His report seemed to imply that the bridge would be repaired and kept essentially in its historic form. A concession by the Railroad was made to permit it to raise the height if it needed that for taller railcars. Joe Clark mentioned the status of the sale of Lots 6&7 adjacent to the LOS area. He touched on the trash contract, the coming Town election, and the status of the discussion on barriers along Grove Road in Woodward Park (i.e. the soccer field). Joe expressed his concern that aesthetics should be given so much weight in the decision on the barriers when ugly barriers already exist. Joe Clark also reminded the HPC members that they needed to provide the Town Treasurer with the HPC budget request. We discussed ideas to help homeowners to understand the historic significance of their homes. It was suggested that residents be contacted to tell them about the significance of their homes. Margot Bohan suggested that she would contact the Woman’s Club to work on a process of letting homeowners know about the historic significance of their homes.
Joe Clark suggested that since there are few building permit applications due to the economic slowdown, it would be a good time for the PC and the HPC to have a joint meeting to discuss resubdivison, lot coverage, and other ordinances that relate to mansionization. Charlie Challstrom was in agreement as were the members of the HPC.
Charlie also asked the members of the HPC to think about giving comments on the Gaithersburg West Master Plan. He provided a letter he had written on the subject.
A mention was made of a house numbering error for 333 or 303 McCauley St., the former home of the late Mr. Robert LeCompte. Members seemed to agree that the house should be numbered 333.
Procedures for approving building permits were discussed. It is believed that there have been only 2 cases out of many hundreds of building permit applications in the Town that have been held up due to HPC procedures. Again the timing of a submission after the HPC meets and before the PC meets is the predominant cause. It was suggested that a note on the Town Web site explaining this problem would help. There were several suggestions by those present, and Joe Clark suggested that we test the building permit materials given out via the Town Web site.
Bob Booher reported that Charlie Challstrom, Bob Booher, and John McClelland got together to discuss proposed Ordinance 2009-01. The idea is to relate the limits on the square footage allowed to be built to the lot size not the zone. Bob suggested that it was a good first step in the process, but that it still would not, as written, really prevent mansionization. The Ordinance is now rewriiten and more like the original version. Charlie presented, via a newspaper article, some ideas in the new County Zoning Ordinance that are hoped to prevent mansionization. He felt that the proposed WG Ordinance would balance renovation opportunities between zones, i.e., give greater equality to residents in the Town. Thus, people who have the same size lots now but are in different zones are subject to different limitations. The proposed Ordinance would make the limitations subject primarily to lot size and not zone. Other suggestions, were a sliding scale for the area that can be built on. One explanation for the revision was to provide equal opportunity for renovations while providing air and light around homes. The older version of the proposed ordinance affects fewer properties in the RR-2 zone.
One member noticed that one could get 40% coverage on a typical 7500 square foot lot in the RR-2 zone, while another member asked whether one could have a 25% limit on the increase in the size of a house.
Volume limits were discussed. The height of ceilings was discussed. The idea was again discussed whether one could get a student or intern from Univ. of Maryland to gather the data needed to fully understand the effects of changes to the Ordinances. Another concern some members voiced was whether we are encouraging larger homes in the RR-1 zone via this proposed ordinance. The question was also raised as to why we cannot recognize “compatibility” with the surrounding residences as a goal.
Another question arose which asked if there could be special zones in Town, such as around the Sacred Circle, which would have special historic significance, and hence different zoning or restrictions. This idea was of considerable concern to some as it may force the Town to give greater authority to the HPC which now has only an advisory role with respect to permits.
The suggestion was made that individuals that will be affected by the proposed ordinance should be notified. A discussion on this issue between the HPC and the PC was suggested for several dates around April 8th to 16th.
Documents that should be looked at by the HPC were Sheldon Bierman’s comments on the proposed zoning ordinance and County Councilman Knapp’s ideas on preventing mansionization.
The next meeting will be held Tuesday, April 21, 2009, starting at 7:30pm.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:30 p.m.