Weatherford Director of Planning and Development Craig Farmer presented several items related to the Historical Preservation and Planning and Zoning Commissions’ work on revising/amending the city ordinances regarding zoning and historical preservation Tuesday at a Weatherford City Council meeting.
“It’s a culmination of about a 3-plus year process,” Farmer said. “There was a proposed ordinance presented that was not approved. I will go over some of the reasons for that and how these revisions are accommodating. One of the big issues that we determined, visiting with the Historic Preservation Commission and Planning and Zoning Commission is that the previous ordinance was so large, it was hard to get your arms around it and it was hard to read.”
The first item Farmer presented was “one in a series of amendments to clarify the process of creating historic overlay districts,” according to the agenda report. The ordinance consisted of proposed amendments to the city code of ordinances’ Title XII Zoning Ordinance and revolved around coordinating and removing “duplicative language to be found or moved to Titles II and IV.”
There were no changes made to the requirements for the 100-percent petition to establish an overlay district. The ability to voluntarily withdraw from a district still remains; however, this item will be addressed this summer to clear up some procedural problems, Farmer added.
The ordinance was also subject to a public hearing because it involved zoning.
HPC’s Kathleen Wildwood was the only one who spoke, urging the council to approve the ordinance, as much hard work was put into the revisions, she said.
The second ordinance called for amendments to Title II. The revisions involved clarifying term limits for those serving on the HPC and coordinating and removing duplicative language to be found in or moved to Titles II and IV.
“There’s been a few minor changes in [Title II],” Farmer said. “There was a 2010 letter from the Texas Historic Commission with some items they were looking for in our ordinances. We have incorporated some of those where we felt like it would fit in the ordinances. In a couple of cases we made minor changes. I would say 80 percent of the wording in this document and the next one are [from] the existing ordinances [just reformatted and cleaned up]. I’d say about 15 percent are [non-controversial portions from the failed] proposed ordinance and about 5 percent are some of the historic commission’s items where we were able to merge it without significantly changing the impacts.”
The final item presented by Farmer proposed further amendments revising Title IV, adding a 13th chapter to the title regarding historic preservation, while again coordinating and removing duplicative language found in other titles.
Farmer said that staff felt it would be best to create a new chapter under Title IV for historic preservation maintenance guidelines, as the title covers building and property maintenance regulations.
“This is where we actually have the criteria for designating landmarks, overlay districts and resources,” Farmer said. “... This is not a part of zoning. So we are not rezoning anybody’s property with a landmark. We are with an overlay district, and that’s Title XII, but Historic Preservation Commission will designate [a local historic landmark]. They may even have a different set of plaques that go on the outside of it. It also qualifies people for the incentives I am going to talk about, [and] once it’s designated as a historic landmark, they can apply for some incentives. This isn’t a state program or a federal program, it’s our local program.”
The incentive program is new, Farmer said, adding that all applicants will be considered on a case by case basis by the city council, as they are the only ones able to give incentives.
In addition to property owners being able to petition for a landmark designation, the HPC will now be able to make designations on its own initiative, “provided there are no additional obligations on the part of the property owner,” Farmer said. If there is a collection of buildings that are designated as landmarks, a property owner could petition to be excluded from the landmark designation, he added.
The HPC will also have the ability to make recommendations to the council for incentives for historic buildings anywhere in the city, Farmer said, not just in the overlay districts.
Actual incentives won’t be in place until the next fiscal year, Farmer said.
The council approved all items presented by Farmer.