City proposes new historic districts
Friday, 19 October 2012 by Grayson Edds
The City of Belton held a Historic Preservation Meeting Sept. 26 at the Harris Community Center to discuss the redistricting of historic districts in Belton.
The City has been working with historic preservation consultant Steph McDougal to revise the Historic Preservation Ordinance, update the 2006 Historic Resources Survey, and propose new historic district boundaries and landmarks.
The new ordinance was adopted on June 26. On Sept. 10, the City sent a letter to homeowners whose property were found within the new proposed districts, announcing, among other things, the new proposed districts.
The meeting provided an overview of the purpose of the historic districts, which is to maintain the historical value of Belton and the structures that contributed within.
"When we redid the historic preservation ordinance, we did so with a subcommittee of your peers – citizens, City officials, past City officials, developers, all kinds of people," said McDougal. "We included what is usually done to designate, which is to use the zoning process to create a historic overlay for individual properties."
The meeting addressed the concerns of homeowners within the districts. Primary concerns from citizens included taxes, repair work, expense, and homeowner benefits.
While taxes may increase slowly overtime due to the increase in property value of the historic homes, taxes will neither increase drastically nor immediately. The most significant distinguishing factor between a property that is within a historical district and one that is not is the use of a certificate of appropriateness. If a property owner of a structure inside an historic district makes an alteration to the outside of a building beyond the scope of normal repair, the property owner must first apply for a certificate of appropriateness through the City's preservation officer and planning director Erin Newcomer.
McDougal explained that ordinary maintenance and replacing existing material with like material. If you take down asphalt shingles, for example, replace them with asphalt shingles. Property owners are not required to revert back to materials used at the date of construction. Interior repairs and modifications are not subject to a certificate of appropriateness.
Newcomer has the authority the approve minor repairs or modifications, but anything beyond will be then submitted to a Historical Commission Meeting, which is held once a month. Property owners are encouraged to contact Newcomer for suggestions on applications and ideas for having their project approved.
"We've drawn the district boundaries a little differently than they did in 2009, when they originally did the districts," McDougal explained. "It was really hard to know where the districts were. What the National Registry tells us, which is the guidance we use, is to try to make those boundaries as clear as possible, and to follow things like roads or waterways that are clear visual boundaries, so that's what we've done."
Three of the districts — Downtown, Central Belton, and North Central Belton — are almost identical to how they appeared in 2009, but because of the changes to West Belton, that district was altered to more clearly define the contributing buildings, which will now be called Upper West Belton and Lower West Belton.
Another change was that Leon Heights was designated in 2009, but the contributing buildings within were less than half and were not concentrated to one area of the district, McDougal explained.
Property owners were sent a ballot with the letter to indicate their vote whether they think their district should be designated as historic. The vote is not to say which property should be included, but if the district, as a whole, should be created.
"If we have a proposed district, and more than 50 percent of the property owners in that district say 'We are not in favor of this district,' it will not be designated as proposed," McDougal said. "Now, if there's a subset of property owners that said yes, we could ask them again and maybe make that a smaller district in the future."
Information meetings will be held for specific districts throughout October. Upper West Belton, Lower West Belton, and South Pearl met Oct. 3. The Downtown Commercial Historic District will meet tonight. Central Belton will meet Oct. 10, and North Central will meet Oct. 11. All meetings will be held at the Harris Community Center from 5-7 p.m.
The deadline for returning response cards is Oct. 12 for Upper West Belton, Lower West Belton, South Pearl, and Downtown. North Central and Central response cards are due Oct. 19.
The districts will then be presented to the Historic Preservation Commission, the Planning and Zoning Commission, and City Council. Dates are subject to change and available on the City of Belton website.