Historic Districts FAQs

If you have specific inquiries that are not addressed here, please contact the Community Development Department at 651-430-8820.
 

 What is a historic district?

Locally designated districts are areas that meet the designation criteria set forth in City Code Section 22-7, Subd. 4. They are areas that, with a recommendation from the Heritage Preservation Commission and consultation from the Planning Commission, are determined by the City Council as worthy of preservation.


Local designation encourages sensitive development in the district and discourages unsympathetic changes from occurring.[1] This local legislation is one of the best ways to protect the historic character of buildings, streetscapes, and neighborhoods from inappropriate alterations and incompatible new construction, as well as outright demolition. Local historic districts are about guiding change and preserving community character as an area grows and evolves over time.[2]


The City of Stillwater’s local historic districts have been adopted with area-specific design guidelines to help guide new development that is appropriate to the site and compatible with the historic district.


[1] Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division. “What’s the Difference between a National Register Historic District and a Local Historic District?” September, 2005.

[2] New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources. “Local Historic Districts FAQ.” 2007

 What is a local historic district?

Locally designated districts are areas that meet the designation criteria set forth in City Code Section 22-7, Subd. 4. They are areas that, with a recommendation from the Heritage Preservation Commission and consultation from the Planning Commission, are determined by the City Council as worthy of preservation.

Local designation encourages sensitive development in the district and discourages unsympathetic changes from occurring.[1] This local legislation is one of the best ways to protect the historic character of buildings, streetscapes, and neighborhoods from inappropriate alterations and incompatible new construction, as well as outright demolition. Local historic districts are about guiding change and preserving community character as an area grows and evolves over time.[2]


The City of Stillwater’s local historic districts have been adopted with area-specific design guidelines to help guide new development that is appropriate to the site and compatible with the historic district.


[1] Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division. “What’s the Difference between a National Register Historic District and a Local Historic District?” September, 2005.

[2] New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources. “Local Historic Districts FAQ.” 2007

 What areas in Stillwater have been designated as a historic district?

The Downtown Commercial Historic has been designated on the National Register of Historic Places. The Stillwater City Council designated this district in 1989 as a Local Preservation Districtprior to its national listing.

Additionally during Highway 36 reconstruction, the City of Stillwater’s first archaeological district was created and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 What is the National Register?

The National Register is our country’s official list of historic places worthy of preservation. It includes individual buildings, structures, sites, and objects as well as historic districts that are historically, architecturally, or archaeologically significant. The National Register is maintained by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Parks Service. [1]


[1] Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division. “What’s the Difference between a National Register Historic District and a Local Historic District?” September, 2005.

 What gives the City of Stillwater the authority to designate a local historic district?

Minnesota Statutes (471.193) authorizes local governing bodies to engage in a comprehensive program of historic preservation. The governing body of a city may establish a heritage preservation commission to preserve and promote its historic resources including, but not limited to, the survey and designation of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects that are of historical, architectural, archaeological engineering, or cultural significance.

In 1980, the Stillwater City Council adopted Ordinance No. 720, declaring that the preservation, protection, perpetuation and use of areas, places, buildings, structures and other objects having a special historical, community or aesthetic interest or value is a public necessity and is required in the interest of the health, prosperity, safety and welfare of the community. The ordinance created the Stillwater Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC).

 What is the difference between a Local and National Register?

Where the National Register District identifies historic resources, a local district protects those resources. [1]

The Local Register:

  • Designates historic areas on the basis of local criteria and local procedures
  • Protects the historic character and quality of the district with specific design controls and a design review process
  • Does not restrict property use in the district or require property owners to make improvements to their property
  • Provides for review of proposed demolitions within designated areas; may prevent or delay proposed demolitions for specific time periods to allow for preservation alternatives

The National Register:

  • Identifies significant properties and districts for general planning purposes
  • Designates historic areas based on uniform national criteria and procedures
  • Sets district boundaries tightly, based on the actual distribution pattern of intact historic properties in the area
  • Makes available specific federal and state tax incentives for preservation purposes
  • Does not restrict the use or disposition of property or obligate private property owners in any way
  • Does not require conformance to design guidelines or preservation standards when property is rehabilitated unless specific preservation incentives (tax credits, grants) are involved
  • Does not prevent the demolition of historic buildings and structures within designated areas

[1] Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division. “What’s the Difference between a National Register Historic District and a Local Historic District?” September, 2005.

 What is the difference between the Stillwater Neighborhood Conservation District and a historic district?

The Stillwater Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD) has been established to help protect and preserve the unique character of Stillwater’s residential neighborhoods by providing Design Guidelines for new infill development within the NCD. Its purpose is to conserve the traditional neighborhood fabric, guide future infill development within the district, and discourage unnecessary demolition of structures that contribute to the district’s historic character. The NCD only applies to new construction and does not apply to exterior alterations of existing structures.

 Do we really need more regulations? Isn’t this just zoning in disguise?

Zoning regulates use; historic districts do not. Local historic districts also do not restrict the sale of the property, require improvements or restoration of the property, require approval for interior changes or alterations, prevent new construction within historic areas, or require approval for ordinary repair or maintenance, unlike zoning regulations. [1]


[1] New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources. “Local Historic Districts FAQ.” 2007

 What is the Stillwater Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC)?

The regulations of the Stillwater Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) can be found in City Code Section 22-7. The Section indicates the purpose of the HPC is to:

(1)   Safeguard the city's heritage by preserving sites and structures which reflect elements of the city's cultural, social, economic, political, visual or architectural history;
 
(2)   Protect and enhance the city's appeal and attraction to residents, visitors and tourists and serve as a support and stimulus to business and industry;
 
(3)   Enhance the visual and aesthetic character, diversity and interest of the city;
 
(4)   Foster civic pride in the beauty and notable accomplishments of the past; and
 
(5)   Promote the preservation and continued use of historic sites and structures for the education and general welfare of the city's residents.

The seven HPC members are residents of the City of Stillwater who are appointed by the City Council. Members are regulated by the State Historic Preservation Office and must have a demonstrated interest, competence or knowledge in historic preservation. One member of the HPC must be a designated representative of the county historical society.

 If my neighborhood is proposed for local historic district designation, do I have any say in whether or not it is established?

Yes. Public participation is an important part of the designation process. By law, property owners in a proposed historic district must be notified of the proposal so that they may testify for or against it during public hearings to assess the impact of designation. [1]


[1] Minnesota Historic Preservation Office. “Frequently Asked Questions About Local Designation.” http://www.mnhs.org/shpo/local/faq.htm. 15 March 2014

 How does local designation affect me as a property owner?

Local designation of a historic building or district will not prohibit you from making changes to your property. However, any exterior changes you make must meet local preservation guidelines, based on the Secretary of the Interior's Standards, and must be approved by the Stillwater HPC. This review process ensures that proposed alterations are compatible with the nature of the property. [1]


[1] Minnesota Historic Preservation Office. “Frequently Asked Questions About Local Designation.” http://www.mnhs.org/shpo/local/faq.htm. 15 March 2014

 My town looks fine the way it is – what is the value in having a historic district?

As population grows and development pressure increases, local citizens actually have less influence on how their communities evolve – unless there is some sort of local design review in place that oversees development. Creating a historic district is a way of singling out the special places within a town or city. It helps ensure the unique attributes that define those will remain for future generations and preventing their gradual erosion.

 

Historic districts encourage reinvestment. When you are part of an historic district, you have some certainty that any new construction or renovation activity will be respectful of the existing character of the community and its architecture. Historic district regulations are quality assurance standards, so that if you invest in your building, you are assured that your investment won’t be negated by a thoughtless renovation next door. Local historic districts encourage better design. There is generally a greater sense of cohesion, more innovative use of materials, and greater public appeal within historic districts than in areas without historic designations. [1]


[1] New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources. “Local Historic Districts FAQ.” 2007

 Why should I support local designation?

Designation has many benefits. It: [1]

  • Helps maintain neighborhood property values.
  • Brings recognition to your building and neighborhood.
  • Keeps you informed about proposed changes in your neighborhood.
  • Demonstrates your community's support for the preservation of its historic properties and neighborhoods.

[1] Minnesota Historic Preservation Office. “Frequently Asked Questions About Local Designation.” http://www.mnhs.org/shpo/local/faq.htm. 15 March 2014

 What will happen to the value of my property?

Studies around the country suggest that property values increase faster in local historic districts than elsewhere. In Fredericksburg, Virginia, for example, commercial property values located within the historic district increased by an average 480 percent compared to an average 281 percent elsewhere in the city. In some areas, local designation may help turn around a decline in property values. A study of St. Paul's Historic Hill District found that residential property values rose 31 percent compared to an 18-percent decrease elsewhere in the city. One study found that buyers valued the extra protection offered by local historic districts and so were willing to pay higher prices. [1]


[1] Minnesota Historic Preservation Office. “Frequently Asked Questions About Local Designation.” http://www.mnhs.org/shpo/local/faq.htm. 15 March 2014

 Will my taxes go up?

Property taxes are tied to real estate values. Property taxes for buildings in historic districts are taxed no differently than those outside the district. [1]

The Washington County Assessor's office is responsible for establishing the market value of properties located within Washington County. 

[1] New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources. “Local Historic Districts FAQ.” 2007

 If my building is to be locally designated, does that mean I have to fix it up?

No. You may maintain the current look of your building; you are not required to restore it. If you wish to make significant changes to exterior architectural features of your historic building, those changes must be reviewed and approved by the Stillwater HPC. The HPC provides design assistance to property owners to ensure exterior changes are appropriate to the architecture of the building as well as the character of the district. [1], [2]


[1] Minnesota Historic Preservation Office. “Frequently Asked Questions About Local Designation.” http://www.mnhs.org/shpo/local/faq.htm. 15 March 2014

[2] City of New Orleans Historic Districts Landmarks Commission. “Frequently Asked Questions.” http://www.nola.gov/hdlc/faq/ 15 March 2014

 Am I going to be told what color I can paint my house?

While the Stillwater HPC does regulate the painting of contributing structures in a historic district as well as previously unpainted masonry, the HPC does not regulate color – or many other changes that are considered cosmetic and can readily be reversed. There are colors which are appropriate to the age and style of the building, consistent with applicable design guidelines and fit within the character of the district. City staff and the HPC are prepared to assist a property owner in color selection.

 Is interior work reviewed?

While the City of Stillwater reviews building permits for compliance with the adopted building code, the Stillwater HPC has no jurisdiction over the interior of properties. [1]


[1] City of New Orleans Historic Districts Landmarks Commission. “Frequently Asked Questions.” http://www.nola.gov/hdlc/faq/ 15 March 2014

 Is routine maintenance reviewed?

Routine maintenance may require a building permit. Building permits are reviewed for compliance with the adopted building code as well as other local land use and development controls. Review of routine maintenance work is performed at the staff level as quickly as possible.

 Will designation as a local historic district make repairs and alterations to my building more costly?

It shouldn’t. Historic districts are not adopted to impose hardships on people. Nor do commissions insist that buildings be “restored” or become museum structures. The purpose of a district is to keep as much of the historic fabric as is feasible, and when alterations are necessary, that the underlying historic character of the building not be lost in the process. [1]

Many property owners think that a local designation requires the owner to make costly improvements, or that they will be forced to spend more money to comply with the appropriate preservation treatments than they would otherwise spend. While in some cases the initial changes may be more costly, it is hoped that those changes, if done correctly, will save money in the long run and increase the value of the building. Technical assistance offered by the staff and the Heritage Preservation Commission often result in savings to the home owner. [2]


[1] New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources. “Local Historic Districts FAQ.” 2007

[2] City of New Orleans Historic Districts Landmarks Commission. “Frequently Asked Questions.” http://www.nola.gov/hdlc/faq/ 15 March 2014

 What about buildings in deteriorated condition?

If a property owner deliberately fails to maintain a structure and allows neglect and deterioration to occur, the owner could be cited for “demolition by neglect.” The City encourages good stewardship of historic resources through reuse and repair, rather than by replacement.

 Can I call the HPC with my questions? Can they provide technical help in maintaining my property?

Yes. One of the major purposes of the HPC is to “promote the preservation and continued use of historic sites and structures for the education and general welfare of the city's residents,” the HPC provides a series of handouts, free of charge, that provide rules, regulations and guidelines for the various districts in the City. Additionally, the HPC is willing to conduct pre-application conferences with property owners planning structural restoration and rehabilitation projects.

City staff serve as a liaison to the HPC and are also happy to assist you. They can answer technical questions, suggest solutions to problems, provide published design guidelines, explain the review process and assist with application development. Call the staff in the early planning stages with any questions or concerns you may have.

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