Friday, June 05, 2015

William King: "A Proposal to Bring Clarity and Accountability to the Demolition Permitting Process for Historic Structures"

Click on the link to read the entire Hill Rag article.

Of potential interest to McMillanites.

DC Preservation Law Must Change

A Proposal to Bring Clarity and Accountability to the Demolition Permitting Process for Historic Structures
Picture your favorite historic building in DC. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have trouble choosing just one.  DC’s historic places are integral to the city’s character but, as in all cities, they must sometimes give way to the demands of modern life. Cities like DC grow and change, and they require new schools, apartments, firehouses, and office complexes. But how do we decide what to save and what to let go?  DC historic preservation law sets out a process for doing just that, although it’s far from perfect. I propose one strategic change that will improve its clarity, predictability, and accountability to the citizens of DC. 
DC historic preservation law creates a presumption against the demolition of historic landmarks and structures that contribute to historic districts, but provides that demolition may proceed where a proposed new construction project is one of “special merit.” A proposed construction project constitutes special merit if it promotes significant benefits to the District of Columbia or to the community by virtue of: 1) “exemplary architecture,” 2) “specific features of land planning,” or 3) “social or other benefits having a high priority for community services.” The Mayor’s Agent, an administrative judge appointed by the Mayor of DC, decides whether or not a proposed project constitutes special merit. His or her decision rules unless overturned by the DC Court of Appeals. 
Analysis under the first (“exemplary architecture”) prong requires careful consideration of a proposed building’s exterior architectural elements including height, appearance, texture, color, and materials.  


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