Historic preservation does a lot of good for the District, but property owners need more clarity about what will and won’t get approved. The preservation office’s latest work plan sadly continues to omit this component, which should instead be one of its top priorities.
The District’s historic preservation office has published its annual work plan. It includes many worthwhile endeavors, such as putting more data about historic sites online, helping affordable housing developers qualify for existing federal tax credits, and doing more to preserve and repair the boundary stones.
However, the plan doesn’t do anything to address preservation’s biggest problem. Right now, there are very few written standards for what is and is not “historically compatible.” As a result, the Historic Preservation Review Board makes decisions arbitrarily, mostly built upon individual members’ personal aesthetic decisions rather than any rules or precedent.
Most other boards that make decisions follow a much more legalistic format. They have a set of regulations which they are bound to uphold. When considering each case, they look to the relevant regulations and try to figure out how to fill in gaps when the regulations don’t directly address a situation. If a regulation isn’t working well, the agency (or legislature) changes it.
[Continue reading David Alpert’s post at Greater Greater Washington.]
David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.