Just how city leaders should preserve historical landmarks, homes and neighborhoods in Weatherford is proving to be a complex task.
The Weatherford Historic Preservation Commission has applied for a Certified Local Government status and needs approval and recommendation from the Texas Historical Commission before approval from the National Park Service. This status would make the city eligible for outside funding to repair and maintain historically significant structures in Weatherford.
A draft ordinance sent to the Texas Historical Commission for review was returned to city staff along with a response that the state agency could not provide a letter of approval at this time.
“They want to see some changes to the ordinance before they can go forward on a positive recommendation,” City Planner Troy Anderson said. “That is what has spawned staff and the Weatherford Historical Commission’s efforts to rewrite the ordinance for historic overlay districts, which was adopted in March 2007.”
The planning and zoning board took a first look at changes to the ordinance this past week. Anderson briefed the board on work the staff has done to rewrite the historic overlay ordinance modeled after a suggested ordinance from the Texas Historical Commission. He said some of the language in the city ordinance is identical to the state recommendation, while other parts are unique to Weatherford. The draft ordinance includes language that would allow anyone to request a piece of land be considered for designation as an historic district, even if they are not the land owner.
Once the Weatherford Historical Commission has recommended the district be established, the matter would then be submitted to the P&Z within 30 days, and the P&Z would have 45 days to give notice and conduct a hearing. Following the hearing, the P&Z would have 45 days to make a recommendation to the city council that would then have 45 days to give notice and conduct another hearing.
“This could turn into an obnoxious and an onerous thing for a homeowner,” P&Z chair Brad Felmey said. “I can’t in good consciousness vote for this. As someone who owns one of these old fossils, I’d been the first in line complaining about this long and difficult process.”
Board members were also concerned about the ability of involuntary participation.
“This sounds like selling private property rights to some place that isn’t here to get money,” Felmey said. “I guess that rubs me wrong, or I’m over reacting.”
If a property were designated an historic district by the draft ordinance, changes to the façade could require a certificate of appropriateness if it falls outside of guidelines set at the time the property is designated historic, such as paint color and decorative touches. Board members had concerns about this as well.
P&Z member Gene Burks asked Director of Planning and Development Don Stephens if he knows of any city with such an ordinance that does it right and doesn’t step on property rights.
“They all do to some point,” Stephens said. “With any kind of regulation, comes regulation.”
Stephens said the board can change and simplify the draft, but added there is need for some specific language to receive the state recommendation for the national status of a Certified Local Government.
“We need to put together what you guys deem appropriate,” he said. “Maybe the answer is if someone wants to be designated, they come forward and other people can’t bring it forward for a homeowner.”