In March, Jon Jordan and his wife bought an old house on South Palmway, an historic district.
They planned to replace the front door and many windows so they applied for a permit from the Historic Resources Preservation Board.
“We assumed they approved everything we submitted,” Jordan said.
Turns out, that didn’t happen.
Jordan said the board instead asked them to keep the old door, which wasn’t hurricane-proof, and just “put up a shutter over” it.
“I like historic preservation, but they can do a better job on what they’re allowed to approve,” he said.
That could be in the works after city commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting unanimously passed an ordinance on second reading that updates and clarifies the city’s Historic Preservation Policy.
“This is a significant step in making historic districts work well, work better and to be more user-friendly,” said City Manager Michael Bornstein. “This has been over a year, plus, pulling this together. This ordinance should address 80 percent of the problems people encounter.”
The ordinance clarifies the policy, considers what elements should be under design review and spells out elements that are essential for the overall preservation of the integrity, character and charm of an historic district.
After the city’s initial adoption of new land development regulations in 2013, both city officials and the HRPB started raising issues about the Historic Preservation section. In the spring of this year, the city and HRPB began to craft changes.
Resident Tammy Pansa said she was concerned there wasn’t a specific mention of roofs with the updates.
“Repairing or replacing roofs should be expedited,” Pansa said. “Roofs, windows, doors and fences are all essential for our safety and help preserve the value of our homes.”
Overall Pansa called the improvements good.
“They are going to make a list of local places to get the products that fit the guidelines,” Pansa said. “If the products they prefer are 25 percent or higher (in cost) than the ones the homeowner has chosen, there will be a consideration for cost issues. Clearing up the process and streamlining it should keep homeowners and contractors from having to go back eight or 10 times for approval.”
As for the design guidelines, Mayor Pam Triolo said some extra effort should be made in publicizing upcoming meetings so residents can learn what’s expected.
“We’re trying to create solutions for people and not create more problems for them,” Triolo said.
Those meetings, said Commissioner Herman Robinson, should also be streamed online for folks who can’t attend.
Commissioner Omari Hardy said the process needs to be interactive and collaborative. “It needs to be a guide,” Hardy said. “People can do it without turning it into a research project for themselves.”
That sounds like a plan to Jordan.
“If they come up with a way to still preserve the historic district, but relieve the drastic, complexity of sticking to their guidelines, that would be terrific,” he said.