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Weeks before Council Elections
City to Scrap Appeals Process in
Historic Preservation Ordinance Revisions
UPDATE: The plans to alter Ch. 33 to remove the appellate process have apparently been withdrawn – at least for the present. There is no mention of them on the agenda for the October 24, 2019 HAHC meeting.
UPDATE: 11/21/2019 – The Revisions are to be presented to HAHC at the December 18 HAHC Meeting – 3:00pm, 900 Bagby.
Wednesday, August 21, 2019— Margaret Wallace Brown, Interim Director, Planning Department, announced plans for major revisions to Chapter 33, the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance (version 3, passed in 2015) at the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission meeting. The first two proposed revisions seem innocuous enough, and have been on the table for nearly a year: 1- to revise the manner in which publicly owned structures that have “Landmark” designation are counted when establishing new Historic Districts; and 2- to grant the Historic Preservation division of the Planning Department enforcement authority in cases of violations of the Historic Preservation Ordinance. The third proposed revision also seems unlikely to raise much objection, as it seeks to revise the fee structures for Certificates of Appropriateness to better reflect the City’s costs of administering the program.
However, the sudden announcement of a fourth revision caught everyone by surprise. If approved by Council in October, this revision would COMPLETELY ABOLISH the present APPELLATE PROCESS established when version 3 of the Historic Preservation Ordinance was passed in 2015. Rather than appealing adverse decisions of the HAHC to the Historic Preservation Appeals Board, and potentially to City Council, aggrieved applicants would have to file suit in District Court against the City of Houston to have their grievance addressed.
This proposal ignores the fundamental difference between the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission and the Planning and Tower Commissions (after whose processes it is modeled).
Specifically – everyone who purchases or owns property within a City of Houston Historic District voluntarily relinquishes certain property owner rights in the interest of preservation for the benefit of the City of Houston– persons seeking to construct towers or to build new developments do not relinquish any rights to their properties, and generally have far greater financial resources at their disposal than do individual property owners in the City’s 22 Historic Districts. Thus, the proposal to pit an individual against the City of Houston (which enjoys Sovereign Immunity) is on its face unfair and unreasonable, and quite likely to result in no new Historic Districts being created in Houston.
Ms. Wallace Brown stated that copies of the proposed changes were available at that August 21st HAHC meeting, but no copies were available due to a copy machine breakdown. She announced a new 30-day comment period beginning at the meeting (and running through September 20, 2019). Yet, the proposals are still not generally available to the public, as the City Legal Department continues to review them. Thus, the 30-day comment period is unlikely to generate any meaningful response as the data is not available for review.
The proposed revisions are supposed to be discussed at the September 26 meeting of the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission (3:00pm at 900 Bagby – Council Annex Chambers), and if approved by the HAHC would then be forwarded on to City Council for approval in October (just prior to an election that will change the makeup of City Council).
The process by which these significant revisions to Chapter 33, the Historic Preservation Ordinance are being proposed, is fundamentally different and far less democratic than those used to draft the third version of the Ordinance in 2015. In that case numerous public hearings were held at venues across the City. Indeed, passage of the revised Ordinance was made possible in the end only by inclusion of the present appellate process.
While it can certainly be argued that the present Historic Preservation Appeals Board has not operated in the manner prescribed by the present Historic Preservation Ordinance, it seems a bit like throwing out the baby with the bathwater to abolish the process rather than to reform the board.
What can You do to help now?
- Attend the DECEMBER 18, 2019 meeting of the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission (3:00pm, 900 Bagby) and sign up to speak against the proposal to change the Appeal process
NOTE- An email received Sept 11 from MWB indicated that the 30-day comment period will be extended, so We will need speakers to attend the Wednesday December 18 HAHC meeting as well.
- Please write or email – you can download a sample email here
Margaret Wallace Brown, Interim Director Planning Department Margaret.WallaceBrown@houstontx.gov
Mayor Sylvester Turner
Councilmember District C Ellen Cohen email@example.com
Councilmember District H Karla Cisneros firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilmember District I Robert Gallegos email@example.com
At Large 1 Mike Knox firstname.lastname@example.org
At Large 2 David Robinson email@example.com
At Large 3 Michael Kubosh firstname.lastname@example.org
At Large 4 Amanda Edwards email@example.com
At Large 5 Jack Christie firstname.lastname@example.org
Individually addressed emails are more effective than those sent to a group, and are less likely to be blocked by spam filters. Your letter or email should state your name and street address and should be modeled as follows:
This bulletin was approved unanimously by the Board of Directors of The Civic Association of The First Montrose Commons, Inc., August 9, 2019
|Stephen Longmire, MD, President||Joan Leslie Turner, Historian|
AIMS (Arabic Immersion Magnet School) Needs Our Help Now to Establish Its New Big Brothers Big Sisters Program as it Moves to FMC this Fall.
You can Make A Difference!
Both Big Brothers/Big Sisters as well as Corporate Sponsors are needed now to kick off this important new program at AIMS. Let’s kick off our relationship with our new school by signing up to mentor or sponsor.
YOU ARE THE DIFFERENCE in a CHILD’S LIFE!
The Civic Association of The First Montrose Commons Meets Every THIRD Tuesday of the Month at The Montrose Center, 401 Branard Street at Bute Street, Room 106 from 7:00-8:00pm.
Everyone who lives or owns property or a business within the area shown should attend these important meetings to keep abreast of ongoing construction, security, and events affecting our neighborhood.
Renters and families with children are encouraged to attend – we’d rather you bring the kids than stay at home and miss something!
NEW Requirements for Submitting Certificate of Appropriateness Applications
As of July 2, 2018, all Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) Applications must be submitted through the Historic Preservation Tracker online.
PLEASE BE MINDFUL in street parking to OBSERVE PARKING REGULATIONS AND SIGNS – Parking Management patrols FMC daily writing tickets for violations.
Your Neighborhood Association depends on Your Support
Please take just a moment to join or renew your support for one of the most cost-effective Civic Associations in Houston – First Montrose Commons. We’ve been working to improve our unique neighborhood for more than 24 years, while keeping our Resident Member Dues the lowest of any active Civic Association – just $10 per person per year.
You can join or renew online using the NEW PayPal links to the right. (click on the PayPal Logo box) Please remember to provide us with your street address and the emails of each person joining. (You don’t have to have a PayPal account to use these links, you can join or renew as a guest and pay using your credit or debit card.)
We meet the Third TUESDAY of each month, except April, October & December – check the website for the meeting location.
Help us keep improving the best urban neighborhood in Houston! Thanks for your support!
If we want more Houston Police Department Patrols in FMC, then we must provide documentation of the need for them – we must REPORT EVERY SUSPICIOUS PERSON AND EVERY CRIMINAL ACT by using HPD’s established methods for doing so:
NONEMERGENCY CALLS (illegally parked cars, abandoned cars, suspicious persons, etc.) 713-884-3131
NO DOPE HOTLINE (report activity suspected to involve the solicitation of, sales of, consumption of, or purchase of illegal substances) 713-466-3673
Please be especially careful when parking your vehicles on the street during construction. Cars left more than 24 hours are subject to ticketing and towing (STATE LAW), and provide a powerful magnet for car burglars looking to find a quick bit to steal and sell. Remember, the criminals ARE PATROLLING OUR STREETS.
Remember, HPD is severely understaffed, so allocation of Police Patrols is Data Driven!
This means that if you want more HPD patrol coverage you MUST REPORT EVERY CRIME, every incident of suspicious persons or drug offense EVERY TIME. Lt. Davis reports that officers are now regularly pulled from one patrol or beat to another which has more data supporting the need for patrols. If you don’t report, HPD thinks you don’t need patrols. Click Here to download our new HPD Quick Contacts & Resources Card which you can use to help you report suspicious or criminal activities.
You should also be aware that parking illegally, especially including leaving a vehicle parked longer than 24 hours on street, gets the attention of both criminals and patrolling officers. Is it really worth the hassle?
Look before you park to avoid being towed!
AVOID PARKING OR DRIVING IN BLOCKS WHERE YOU SEE CREWS WORKING IN THE ROADWAY. DOING SO IS RISKY – both to your vehicle and to the workers.
This page will serve as our temporary home page throughout construction of NSR467. Our original home page is now available via the “WELCOME” menu selection. The PHASE – as indicated on the map above – will be updated and listed in the corresponding color code as construction advances.