The Washington Historic Preservation Committee will have more chances to eye proposed changes to historic buildings if the city approves proposed amendments to zoning codes.
A public hearing was held Monday addressing suggested changes to several codes, including painting buildings in the city’s historic district, along with other facade improvements.
The proposals would require any exterior changes in the district to have “mandatory review, voluntary compliance.” An ordinance is expected to appear in front of the board next month.
Community and Economic Development Director Sal Maniaci said this code change could pause work for property owners who do not submit changes for review.
“There is not more teeth when it comes to regulations, but it gives us an easier way to regulate that,” he said, “and send a citation the same way we would if it was a zoning violation.”
According to Maniaci, any maintenance, including door or window repairs or replacements, to the facade of a historic district building must be reviewed by the commission.
“You get their opinion on what you are doing, but it doesn’t mean you have to follow their guidelines,” Maniaci explained.
Under the current code, any “ordinary repairs” or maintenance does not require a certificate of review from the historic preservation commission.
Maniaci said enforcement of the proposed code could be difficult because painting and other maintenance work does not require a city building permit. He anticipates many residents will keep an eye on facade changes.
“We have a lot of eyes Downtown,” he said. “We have people always paying attention.”
City Administrator Darren Lamb added about 10 years ago officials agreed that they would not require a review for maintenance projects, including painting. He noted that there is a book of guidelines that the commission will follow to make recommendations.
“It is not just arbitrary at the taste of the historic preservation commission,” he said. “There are design guidelines they try to follow and make sure the applicant is aware of those guidelines.”
Councilman Joe Holtmeier said the purpose of this review requirement is to educate those in the historic district.
“People can come in and we can explain to them why we’re doing this, and they can do whatever they want,” he said. “At least educate them — if they want to go along with it that’s fine.”
Maniaci said the commission serves as a “free consultant” to suggest appropriate changes.
“If you open our color palette, it shows what looks good together and what fits into different areas of Downtown,” he said. “A lot of people may see that as a resource if they are not sure what colors they want to paint.”
According to Maniaci, there are many color options to choose from within the design book.
Councilwoman Gretchen Pettet asked if anyone painting their building the same color would be required to submit the plan for review.
“That’s an argument you can make,” Lamb stated. “You are stopping them from moving forward until they get that certificate of review — even if it is the same color it’s still got to come back before them.”
Pettet also questioned if there are other communities that have more stringent rules.
Maniaci said cities such as Kirkwood, Webster Groves and St. Charles require a mandatory review and mandatory compliance.
“To write that section of code we would need very specific architectural guidelines,” he said. “It has to be specific.”