One of the pieces to the new historic preservation ordinance was the designation of a period in which already-existing historic districts could submit a petition to have the city reconsider their status. The deadline for that has passed, and 8 of the existing 16 districts got the necessary 10% of homeowners to sign on.
If owners of 51 percent of the tracts in the district vote against the historic designation, Planning Department Director Marlene Gafrick would recommend City Council repeal the district or shrink its boundaries. The authority to repeal, amend or leave a district intact rests solely with council.
Planning Department spokeswoman Suzy Hartgrove said city staff has yet to verify the signatures in the applications submitted by residents of Avondale West, Boulevard Oaks, First Montrose Commons, Houston Heights East, Houston Heights South, Houston Heights West, Norhill and Westmoreland historic districts.
You can find maps of these districts here.
Officials have said districts could be redrawn to encompass only the blocks where a majority of owners support the new protections.
Bill Baldwin, of Responsible Historic Preservation for Houston, which worked to gather petitions against the new ordinance in the Heights and provided guidance to opponents elsewhere, said he was pleased.
“We always wanted a survey and we’re going to get one, so we’re happy about that,” he said.
Baldwin said he was confident a majority of homeowners in Heights East and South oppose the new ordinance. Avondale West opponent Dana Thorpe said the same for his neighborhood.
“Will 51 percent of those tract owners receive a ballot and return it in opposition? I have no way of knowing,” Baldwin said. “To get 51 percent of people to return a ballot is a monumental task.”
That challenge is encouraging to Bart Truxillo, co-chairman of the Houston Historic Districts Coalition.
“It is so disappointing that people are not understanding the potential good that the districts will do,” he said. “But there’s always going to be 10 percent against everything … 51 percent is a little bit harder.”
We’ll see what happens. I’m rooting for the attempts to change these districts to fall short, but if that’s what the residents want, then so be it. Swamplot has more.