Why create a Local Historic District?
A number of Midtown residents have expressed the desire to help preserve the historic identity of Midtown in the face of development pressures from outside the neighborhood. A Local Historic District would provide protection for Midtown’s historic character while still allowing for development within a framework that encourages compatibility of design, lot usage, and mass and scale.
What is the benefit of a Local Historic District designation to the individual property owner?
Owners can be assured that renovations to adjacent properties will be done in a way that fits in with their property as well as the rest of the neighborhood. Over the long term, this can drive higher property values, since historic neighborhoods are finite resources that are highly desirable to an increasing number of people. Also, many of the zoning variances that are required under the current system would be streamlined under a historic district. Many projects that would require months of waiting for approvals are approved administratively in the Atlanta Urban Design Commission (AUDC) office for Local Historic Districts. For example, under the current system if your house is over the existing side setback requirement you have to seek a zoning variance by going through the MNA Land Use Committee, the Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU), and the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). Under a Local Historic District, you would just have to submit an application to the AUDC, which meets twice as often as the BZA.
What is the difference between a Local Historic District, a National Historic District and a Landmark District?
- Midtown became a National Historic District in 1999.
- National Historic District is a recognition that a specific defined area is historically intact and has significant historic structures and/or other resources that have importance to a community, a state or the nation that are worth preserving. National district designation does not provide legal protection for historic structures.
- Local Historic Districts and Landmark Historic Districts are designations under the City of Atlanta Historic Preservation Ordinance that provide a legal framework for protecting historic structures and neighborhoods.
- Landmark Districts are generally more historically consistent and intact, while Historic Districts can be somewhat more diverse in terms of periods of development, architectural styles, and how historically intact the buildings are.
What area will be covered by the Local Historic District?
The proposed boundaries of the historic district follow Piedmont Road and parts of Juniper Street on the west; 10th Street on the north; Monroe Drive, Monroe Circle and Lakeview Avenue on the east; and Ponce de Leon Avenue on the south.
How does Historic District designation differ from individual property protection
Individual property protection, also known as an opt-in restrictive covenant, is a legal contract entered into by a group of owners, usually in suburban subdivisions, to enforce rules of consistency on a neighborhood. Restrictive covenants are usually much more strict and overarching than historic districts and are often enforced by lawsuits between neighbors. A Local Historic District on the other hand is an overlay to city zoning codes that becomes part of the building permit approval process. Historic districts are concerned with maintaining historic identity of structures and as such do not regulate things such as paint colors, lawn decorations, etc.
Will a Local Historic District designation add another layer of review to the permitting process?
Depending on the level of the repair or renovation, the process can be as simple as getting staff sign off from the AUDC. For more involved renovations, the AUDC board meets twice a month to review construction plans. As mentioned above, permitting for work that would otherwise require a zoning variance, which is common in Midtown because of existing non-conforming uses, is streamlined under Local Historic Districts.
Will a Local Historic District designation affect my choices for doors, shingles, landscaping and/or painting my home?
Our Local Historic District codes will not include changes to interiors, landscaping or paint colors. Our district will allow a wide range of options for doors, windows, shingles and exterior siding in a wide range of appropriate materials, which often coincide with what owners are looking to use anyway.
How will a Local Historic District designation affect my property value?
Dozens of academic studies have demonstrated that historic districts increase property values relative to comparable neighborhoods that are unprotected. A local historic district provides assurance to prospective buyers that their investment will be protected.
What are the tax incentives for Local Historic District structures?
There are incentives available to properties within the Midtown National Register Historic District geared to larger, substantial projects that would provide a complete renovation to the structure.
How is a structure classified as contributing or non-contributing to the Local Historic District?
The Midtown Historic Preservation Committee makes an initial recommendation for each property based on its age and whether it is historically intact. The AUDC then makes an assessment as a result of a site visit to each property.
May a property owner challenge the status of a contributing or a non-contributing structure?
As with other types of zoning, properties can not be arbitrarily excluded.
Can a property owner opt out of the district?
The City of Atlanta strives to maintain continuity and consistency within a neighborhood. The boundaries of an historic district must be contiguous per the guidelines of the AUDC.
How will a Local Historic District designation affect renovation guidelines for non-contributing properties?
There is no design review for non-contributing properties, but regulations related to setbacks, and scale and mass still apply. Also, non-contributing properties can be razed.
What guidelines will be used when drafting the initial Zoning Code proposal?
In keeping with the diversity of housing types and styles within Midtown, the intent of the MNA Historic Preservation Committee is to craft proposed zoning code to be flexible and moderate. Our goal is to preserve the historic character of the neighborhood, while still allowing the eclectic diversity that has come to define Midtown.
What protections does a Local Historic District provide that Post 2 At Large Atlanta City Council Member Mary Norwood’s recently passed infill legislation does not?
- Provides protection against demolition of historic structures.
- Protects properties that are rezoned from residential to some other zoning classification.
- Provides a more streamlined approval process for zoning variances.
- Provides protection within non-residential areas, such as SPI 16 and 17, commercial areas and RG-3.
Is it possible to amend the Local Historic District zoning regulations once they are in place?
Yes. Almost all of the Atlanta Historic districts have amended their regulations after they were implemented. The process is the same as that for changes to any other zoning. The legislative changes are generally sponsored by the relevant City Council Person and are approved by the City of Atlanta Zoning Review Board (ZRB).
Where can I get more information and volunteer?
For more information, visit us at www.preservemidtownatlanta.org.