16 September 2008 | Approved: 20 October 2008
HPC members present: Bob Booher, Chair, Mimi Styles, Margot Bohan, David Neumann and Ed Mroczka. Joe Clark, Council Liaison to the HPC, was also present.
Neighbors, George Paine, Mike Schank and David Stopak were in attendance. Susan West-Montgomery, from the Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions, also attended with the objective to observe this HPC’s process, provide feedback and assist now and in the future with issues/concerns voiced by HPC members and/or by others in the community. Introductions were made around the room.
Margot agreed to take minutes for the meeting. The meeting was officially called to order by the Chair at 7:35pm.
The agenda, proposed by the Chair and posted on the outside of the door to the Town Hall Meeting Room, was reviewed. It was decided, in light of the large number of meeting attendees, that agenda items be modified/deleted in accordance with their level of urgency. In addition to deleting several items on the agenda, HPC members agreed to postpone to the end of this meeting the review and adoption of the last several meeting’s minutes.
Review of Projects
Following agenda modifications, we went directly to the review session of the agenda. Mike Schank attended the meeting to talk about the proposed renovation plan for his home at 302 Ridge Road (Kermit Moyer and Amy Gussett’s former house). This house is on the list of contributing structures. Contributing structures also exist adjacent to and behind the 302 Ridge Road (Homewood) house (Mike Voigt’s & his mother’s house).
The proposal Mr. Schank brought before the HPC seeks to raise and reconfigure the roof height to incorporate more living space at the third floor or attic level. Mr. Schank intends to do all of the proposed construction work himself. HPC members questioned whether the written/drawn materials submitted at this meeting were sufficient to conduct a formal HPC review; clarification was sought about whether this should be an early consultation or a formal review. At this time, it’s going to be considered an early consultation. The HPC encouraged consideration of other options that would provide the house with the additional space desired and greater compatibility with the rest of the house and the neighborhood, particularly from the standpoint of scale. The HPC also offered to meet informally with Mr. Schank to advise on submission of another design he’d previously considered, an addition to the side of the house versus an addition going upward on the original structure. The HPC spoke with Mr. Schank about the potential to apply for historic tax credits as he moves ahead with this renovation. Mr. Schank expressed stronger interest in getting the house in move-in condition now versus pursuing any efforts that may delay the move-in date. Susan West-Montgomery mentioned the conservation easement that entails selling off your rights to develop the property or to subdivide and develop. She explained that one can take this as a charitable deduction from town over the years or can donate it to a conservation organization.
Maryland Association of Historic District Commissions’ Representative Visit
During the Representative’s visit, HPC members learned Susan’s perspectives on getting community buy-in and on how to approach preservation. She suggested we be more transparent in the sense that both parties know what’s expected of them, e.g., applicant knows what paperwork to bring and how to present his/her case. Susan offered that we can often be walking a tight rope with applicants to recognize their “predicaments” and to be responsive to those “predicaments.” Susan said we really need to look from the perspective of ordinance compliance first. She also suggested HPC rules of procedure should be more straightforward and that we consider having a form to fill out and/or a checklist that shows what is required of the applicant to request preliminary/formal review. David Stopak asked what we can do to encourage homeowners to consider historic preservation, i.e., what carrots can we consider? Susan asked if we’ve looked at conservation easements, suggesting that conservation easements will enable owners to get tax deductions. Property tax abatement is another potential carrot, but it’s a relatively small one due to the low town tax rate. Another idea that Susan described was to put together a revolving loan fund (low interest loans for new roofs, for example); we’d need to get the initial amount of funds from the town or county. To take advantage of this loan, the property would be subject to historic review. Changes would require HPC review both during and beyond this ownership. Another carrot of sorts could be for this committee to put up signs of commendation at properties being renovated according to HPC guidelines/guidance.
Susan found it remarkable that the HPC does not review landscape modifications. David Stopak described the HPC’s discussion of relaxing setback and height restrictions if the home’s character is maintained, recognizing the limitations of some community members’ homes/lots. He then proceeded to ask Susan if any other communities do that. Susan asked if we’d thought about giving the homeowner preservation easements which would give HPC true jurisdiction over renovations.
Finally, Susan shared with us that the University of Maryland is investigating the list of contributing structures in the town of Laytonsville, Maryland. She will mention to the University of Maryland point of contact the possibility of doing additional historical investigation here. This project could be cast as a class project whose results would be presented to the community to stimulate energy and interest on the subject of historic preservation.
Susan suggested looking up Maryland Humanities Council Grants.
Ordinance modifying building coverage standards for residential zones
Discussion began with a query about the status of the lot area ordinance changes. The HPC felt that the changes may not adequately address setbacks/space between houses. Bob offered that the proposed ordinance changes could discourage aggregation of lots and potentially encourage subdivision. It was decided that having further analysis would enable us to determine the application and adequacy of the proposed changes.
According to David Stopak, the HPC needs to formulate comments re: the proposed changes and submit them to the Town Council. However, without seeing the zoning map, it’s difficult to conceptualize and understand what the proposed changes really mean. HPC membership would do well to get some examples to compare how things worked conceptually under the old ordinance and how they would work with proposed changes, i.e., develop a spreadsheet of lot coverage under the existing ordinance and taking into account the proposed changes. With this data, we could attempt to understand how it will affect the historic district in terms of scale and lot sizes.
Second Avenue Ordinance
HPC discussed ramifications of abandonment and sale of five fragments of 2nd Avenue to adjacent property owners. David Neumann and Bob Booher volunteered to work on the general concept of historic preservation easements as mentioned in the draft town ordinance.
George Paine attended this HPC meeting to talk about the tree that recently went through his roof. His home’s original metal shingles were discovered beneath several layers of existing roof. George brought 2 original metal roof shingles to the meeting for placement in the Town archive. One thing George would like to do is revert back to a metal roof in the interest of historical integrity. He wanted to know if we were aware of any grant or other program that would supplement the repair costs for this kind of damage. Susan explained that George is definitely eligible for the Maryland Historic Trust tax credit.
Ed brought for the town archive a CD of photographs of the 112 Chestnut Avenue house (a contributing structure) being demolished (July 2008). These photos were taken on the same day the Ed tried unsuccessfully to get into the house to do an historic assessment.
We did not have time to discuss how to dispense with review of the meeting minutes. A suggestion was made to have these discussions via email in the future. We will need to address this topic at our next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:35 p.m.