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Proposed design guidelines update presented to CHLC

Posted: December 6, 2013 4:44 p.m.
Updated: December 9, 2013 5:00 a.m.

A Boulder, Colo., firm hired by the city to assist the city of Camden in upgrading design guidelines for historic properties presented a preliminary document outlining those updates to the Camden Historic Landmarks Commission (CHLC) during a public workshop Thursday. The guidelines are not part of the city’s code of ordinances, but are used to guide the CHLC in making its decisions when considering certificates of appropriateness. Such certificates are required when the owner of a historic property -- whether voluntarily placed under the CHLC’s jurisdiction or as part of a neighborhood historic district -- submits a building permit to the city for external modifications to their home.

Abe Barge and Nore Winter of Winter & Company, presented the document which they said “identified the topics and organizational structure for the new guidelines. Barge explained that this was just the beginning of the project. The main discussion for the evening took place between CHLC members, Barge and Winter, but also included Camden attending the workshop.

“(Camden) has an amazing collection of historical resources … (it’s) a well-kept secret for people in the historical preservation world,” Winter said, explaining that his company has worked in South Carolina before.

He said he and Barge weren’t looking to change the any city ordinances, but to clarify how to “make an informed decision about an individual proposal to improvement or alteration to an historic property or construction of a new building.”

Winter then spoke about the city’s existing historic district design guidelines, noting some people had mentioned a “lack of clarity … specifics and flexibility” within the guidelines. Winter & Company’s aim is to make the guidelines more “user friendly” and would do so by first adding user guidelines in order to better navigate the document. Winter said the guidelines, once completed, would be made available “on the Web” as well as in printed form.

The preliminary document outline stated that it would incorporate topics from the city’s existing guidelines while reflecting “current trends in historic design review including environment sustainability and modern materials.” Winter also said the outline will be open to revision based upon committee and community comments and suggestions.

The design guidelines will include the following features:

• introductory charts and tables to assist in planning a preservation project;

• basic information on preservation theory and the cultural/social, economic and environmental benefits of preservation;

• illustrations and diagrams with clear captions;

• “before and after” examples of successful preservation treatments;

• guidance on the relationship between environmental sustainability and historic preservation, including energy efficiency retrofits and the use of energy generating technologies;

• guidance about where flexibility in the treatment of historic resources may be appropriate; and

• easily referenced formatting, including a hierarchical numbering system.

Winter said a benefit of creating a flexible, user-friendly guide is that it “gives you a checklist of what to consider” when considering making repairs to an historic property, though the committee will have to adapt the guidelines on a “case-by-case basis.”

The preliminary outline also listed chapters that will be included in the final design guideline document and the expected length of each chapter, as follows:

• Introduction (eight pages);

• Preservation Principles (eight pages);

• Treatment of Historic Resources (47 pages);

• New Construction (10 pages);

• Signs at (six pages); and

• Appendices (six pages).

The entire document is expected to be 85 pages, according to the preliminary outline.

“Wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” declared Commissioner Ben Schreiner following Winter’s presentation.

Schreiner said he was especially pleased the guide would be available online and tailored to be accessible to users. He said it would help residents to “do their homework” before coming before the commission. He said it would help residents “be prepared to come before the commission.”

Schreiner also suggested that, due to the guideline being made available online at no charge, more interested citizens would be able to utilize it.

“What’s wonderful about you folks is you’ve seen this hundreds of times in your career … that’s the value you bring to the table,” he said.

Some audience members requested a clearer map of which parts of Camden are considered as historic districts and which were not. They also asked that the map be made available in the guidelines so that both  homeowners who are under CHLC jurisdiction and those who are not would be able to access and understand it.

Winter said that would certainly be taken into consideration so that the guidelines would be user-friendly to most people, but that it was designed to be used by residents under CHLC jurisdiction.

Commissioner Norma Young said she wanted pictures of the correct style of appropriate features to be included in the guide as opposed to photos of incorrect styles.

“I don’t really want to see what’s wrong, when I look,” Young said. “I want to look and see a picture of the right thing. Don’t show me the wrong thing, because I might think I need to take that.”

Winter said if pictures of incorrect styles were included, they would be done in contrast, alongside a photo of the correct style, “designated by checkmarks or Xs.”

Winter and Barge said the document would also utilize side bars, “in order to keep the document as focused as possible.” Sidebars would provide links to already existing publications. Schreiner asked that the links maintain relevance and proximity to the styles of Camden.

“I don’t want to be navigated to something in Milwaukee, Wis.,” he said.

Winter agreed that sidebars should offer relevant, useful examples and help streamline the document.

Another audience member suggested the document could help realtors and their clients understand the responsibility they are undertaking when either buying an “historic” home or undertaking repairs on such homes.

Winter and Barge agreed that the guide would certainly serve as a source of information for new buyers, but that there was still “that kind of person” that chooses to be uninformed. They said, however, that the document would make it “harder for them to plead ignorance.”

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