Thursday, December 20, 2007

Planning Reverses Course; Recommends Original Germantown Overlay Boundaries

The Planning Department, which was originally poised to recommend a reduction of Germantown's Historic Overlay as requested by Historic Germantown, Inc., Metro Council Member Erica Gilmore, and the Historical Commission (MHZC), is now recommending that the Planning Commission approve the unreduced original (absent the four properties that were amended in Metro Council's first reading of the overlay bill) in a .pdf published yesterday morning.

In their statement, Planning conceded that they had not factored MHZC's purpose for the overlay in their original recommendation (which was deferred last week at the Public Hearing). Accordingly:
The stated purpose “…of the proposed Germantown Historic Preservation Overlay is to protect one of the city’s most architecturally and historically significant neighborhoods in its entirety. That purpose encompasses the preservation of historic structures and the compatible redevelopment of the contextual neighborhood.” Therefore, the intent of the Historic Preservation Overlay is not only to preserve individual structures, but to conserve the neighborhood character.
While Germantown has enjoyed the benefits of the Phillips-Jackson Redevelopment District in which it has sat for some time, that tool is limited to encouraging investment and eliminating blight. Phil-Jack does not conserve the historic character of the Germantown neighborhood as a neighborhood (vs. a static container for individual properties?).

Planning identified what is at stake in distinguishing between Phil-Jack and a Historic Overlay:
[An overlay] is especially important in areas where redevelopment may inadvertently encourage demolition and development that is incompatible with the existing historic fabric. Therefore, staff recommends approval of the Historic Preservation Overlay as approved by Metro Historic Zoning Commission, with the exception of the four properties removed during first reading at Metro Council.
Looks like the original overlay proposal is back on course, and I'll update as information comes in.

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