The Cape Charles Town Council has been critical of and has asked for changes to the Historic District Review Board’s (HDRB) process of awarding a Certificate of Appropriateness for work on structures in the Historic District. The HDRB has not reviewed the overall process but did delve into preservation criteria, design guidelines or designation of historic district or landmarks. There are no changes being proposed for the Demolition process.
The following are extracts taken from a recent Town Council meeting containing suggestions/ recommendations for the Historic District Review Board process:
January 6, 2019 Work Session Minutes (Page 2) “xv) A two-phased HDRB application process was suggested, similar to the process for the Harbor Area Review Board (HARB). With HARB, there was an initial meeting followed by a Town Council meeting where staff provided a summary report being provided to Council. HARB would have their second meeting to review any additional information and provide their recommendation to Council for a decision at the next Council meeting. With HDRB, preliminary plans and all specifics could be discussed and any requested information could be provided at the second meetings, when a decision would be made; …….” [For clarity, this referenced two-phase application process refers to a Harbor Development Certificate.]
Staff, after review, has made the following recommendations:
Process for HDRB Certificate of Appropriateness should remain a one-step process from application to board review. However, a new requirement for applicant to have a formal pre-application meeting (with pre-defined submittal requirements) with the zoning administrator will be inserted into the process in addition to the ability for HDRB to defer decision making pending additional information from the applicant.
Current HDRB Design Guidelines are not directly included within the ordinances. It is proposed that they remain that way at this time. However, the current HDRB Guidelines should be reviewed and adopted by the Town Council. In addition, any revisions are to follow the process similar to HARB of (1) HDRB recommendations – (2) Planning commission review and public meeting and recommendation – (3) Town Council review, public meeting and final adoption. This should be written into ordinance.
The Town Council shall only reverse the decision of the Historic District Review Board if it determines that the decision contained a procedural error or was clearly contrary to the provisions of the Ordinance, or was not supported by the facts as presented during the initial determination. This should be written into ordinance.
Denials of applications (or specific aspects of the application) are to be stated in writing to the applicant along with the reasons for such denials. This should be written into ordinance. Applicable to Article VIII.
The zoning administrator per ordinance is currently allowed to pass judgement on certain minor actions exempted from review by the Historic District Review Board. In addition, Administrator in a case within his authority, may permit modifications of original proposals if such modifications are formally acknowledged, clearly described, and recorded in the records of the case. The following changes are to be made:
a. Those decisions made by the Zoning Administrator are to be presented at the next board meeting for acknowledgement. This should be written in ordinance.
b. Minor actions exempted from review by the HDRB should be expanded to include: i. All signs (size, etc. regulated by ordinance) ii. All fences (height, location, materials regulated by ordinance) iii. Uncovered decks in side or rear yards (covered decks alter roof line) iv. Accessory structures under 256 square feet (256 sf is the threshold for requiring a permit) v. All off-street parking and loading areas (currently 5+ requires review of the board).
Applicants have been told verbally upon approval of the certificate of appropriateness that permits will not be issued until the appeal timeframe has expired (30 days). They have been allowed to perform ground work. This should not be continued as a practice. However, the Certificate of Appropriateness form is to be modified to include a cautionary statement to the applicant that should an appeal be made within the 30-day window, a stop-work will be issued. No changes to ordinance recommended.