By Steven Hoffman
Kennett Square Borough officials are working on revisions to the Historic District map and an update of the borough's Historic District Ordinance. The Kennett Square Borough Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB) Task Force made a presentation about some of the proposed changes at Monday night’s council meeting.
Council member Dan Maffei, who previously chaired the borough’s Historical Commission, said that work on the revamped Historic District Ordinance began in early 2013. But the initial draft of the ordinance was rejected by borough council in July because of concerns that some of the new regulations were too restrictive. The HARB Task Force conducted two public workshops, one on Nov. 19, 2013 and another on Dec. 18, to explain some of the proposals for residents who are in the Historic District.
One of the most significant changes under the proposed ordinance is the creation of two distinct zones, referred to as Zone A and Zone B, in the Historic District. Zone A includes the commercial district and has regulations that are more restrictive than Zone B, which is largely residential.
Zone A properties would have to undergo a higher level of review scrutiny and adhere to guidelines for “all land, buildings, and structures which are viewed or may be viewed from a public street or way.” The guidelines for Zone B properties affect “only the facade of the principal building as viewed from a public street, and to any associated carriage houses and outbuildings as viewed from a public street or way.”
Maffei said that a purpose of creating two distinct zones is to largely keep in place the existing regulations for Zone A properties, while reducing some of the restrictions for some of the Zone B properties. Overall, he said, the proposed ordinance is less restrictive than the one currently on the books.
Applicability is an important component of the Historic District Ordinance. It specifies that “the requirements shall only pertain to construction, reconstruction, restoration, rehabilitation, alteration, razing, or demolition on sites located within the Kennett Square Historic District. The work includes but is not limited to cleaning methods, such as sandblasting or solvent wash down; the application of nonstructural surface textures or veneers, such as stucco or siding; the application of paint to previously unpainted masonry surfaces, replacement of similar types of windows, doors, and other minor building elements; the alteration of decorative elements, such as cornices or trim; and other work affecting the visual appearance of a building within the district which can be seen from a public street or way.”
Ray Ott of Ray Ott & Associates, a planning and landscape architecture firm based in West Chester, served as a consultant for the HARB Task Force, noted that the proposed ordinance addresses some of the major concerns that had been raised by residents and property owners in the last year. The ordinance allows for modern replacement materials to be used and also allows for exceptions to be granted when there are financial hardships. The ordinance will also allow the borough's codes enforcement officers to grant on-the-spot approvals for in-kind work that is being done without having to go through the formal review process first.
Another significant change that will come about because of the new ordinance is the creation of the Historical Architectural Review Board. This merges the functions of the Historical Commission and the Architectural Review Board, and will effectively streamline the review process.
The Historical Architectural Review Board will include a licensed realtor, an architect, a building inspector, and other members who have a knowledge of the history of and an interest in historic preservation of the Kennett Square Historic District.
Monday night's presentation served as an update of sorts for borough council, which was not supposed to formally consider the proposed Historic District changes. However, several council members sought clarification and asked questions about the ordinance changes.
Council member Geoff Bosley said that he was still concerned about delays that could occur as a resident in the borough attempted to sell a home. He said that he was worried that the sale could be held up over comparatively small replacement work, such as replacing broken railing, if the homeowner had to go through the review process.
Maffei said that the fact that codes enforcement officers could offer on-the-spot approval for in-kind work should help avoid that.
Maffei also noted that the Historical Architectural Review Board will have two standing meetings each month, and the council also meets twice a month, so there should be a prompt response from borough officials when a review and approval of work is necessary.
“This borough has a solid track record of working with people and their schedules,” Maffei said.
When asked about the importance of the Historic District and of preserving historic properties in town, Maffei emphasized that a town that is well-maintained and visually appealing, and has historic resources that are preserved, can offer intangibles to current and future homeowners.
The proposed Historic District map and ordinance can be viewed on the Kennett Square Borough website at www.kennett-square.pa.us and at borough hall at 120 Marshall Street. Residents can also share their thoughts or ask questions about the proposed changes by contacting Maffei at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kennett Square Borough Council will consider the proposed historic district map and ordinance during a public hearing at 7 p.m. on April 21.