Historic District FAQs
SOURCE: city of Geneva website
Will Historic District designation increase the review process for proposed work at properties within the proposed South Geneva Historic District?
Possibly, but not in all cases. Many types of projects proposed for designated properties are subject only to administrative staff review that coincides with the normal building permit review process. Other projects require full Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) review and, depending upon the date of application submittals, may increase review periods by two-four weeks. Typically, more than 90 percent of the cases subject to Commission review has been approved within one meeting of the Commission.
A Permit Review Matrix, which identifies the level of review for projects based on property classification, may be found on the City’s website.
The Commission and staff have worked, continually, to streamline the Commission review process. In spite of any perceived burden, more than 90 percent of the cases that are subject to HPC review have required only one review meeting, (if any). The vast majority of proposed work (80 percent) is reviewed administratively in conjunction with regular building permit review. Only one HPC determination (out of more than 230 cases reviewed) was appealed in the past 18 months.
Is it true that additions must match the historic architectural materials and details of the original building on a designated property?
Per the U. S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Properties (“SOI Standards”), additions should be designed such that— if removed in the future — the historic form and significant features of a designated property will not be irreparably damaged. Therefore, contemporary additions that are sensitive to the scale, materials, massing, and scale of a historic building are acceptable. Furthermore, the adopted “Design Guidelines for Historic Properties” encourages new additions and infill projects to be products of their own time and period.
If a designated property abuts publicly-owned land (i.e. Fabyan Forest Preserve, the Kane County Government Center, a bike path, or alley), are the sides of my buildings that face those public amenities subject to review by the Historic Preservation Commission?
No. The long-standing policy is that only those parts of a building that are visible from a public right-of-way (i.e. a public street) are subject to review. Furthermore, the Historic Preservation Commission established a policy to not review those portions of a building that lay beyond a major architectural break of a building elevation when that elevation faces a side yard.
Can I change the roofing on a building once it is designated?
Yes. The request to replace existing roofing material with a similar roofing material (e.g. asphalt shingles with asphalt shingles of another color or style) is approved administratively by staff as part of the routine building application process. However, requests for a change in roofing material (e.g. asphalt shingles to be replaced with standing seam, metal roofing) must be reviewed and approved by the Historic Preservation Commission.
The non-insulated glass in our conservatory/greenhouse addition has broken. Can I repair the glass with insulated glass? Does the replacement require Historic Preservation Commission review and approval?
Yes, the glass can be repaired. The replacement glass will be reviewed based on its visual qualities, not its thermal characteristics or design. Generally, reflective or tinted glass is not permitted within a historic district.
The need for Historic Preservation Commission review of the proposed work depends upon the location and historic significance of the conservatory/greenhouse.
If the conservatory/greenhouse is not visible from a public right-of-way (i.e. a public street), then no Commission review is required regardless of its age or significance.
If less than 25 percent of any plane of the conservatory/greenhouse requires repair and replacement, then the work can be completed without preservation review as “ordinary repair and maintenance” work.
If the conservatory/greenhouse is visible from a public right-of-way but is an addition that was constructed after 1989 and “has not gained significance in its own right,” then the proposed work — if in excess of more than 25 percent of the area of the side in question — would be reviewed administratively by staff.
If the conservatory/greenhouse is visible from a public right-of-way but is an addition that is historically significant, then the proposed work would be reviewed by the Commission.
Are landscape features protected by designation?
Tree preservation, per se, is not an objective of the Historic Preservation Commission. In Geneva, the only specific tree preservation requirements are for lots of 1.5 acres or more. That being said, it is very important that historic site and landscape features be clearly identified in a request for historic designation (whether an individual historic landmark or a historic district).
The City Code identifies “landscape features” as “character-defining elements which are associated with the architectural or cultural significance of a site or property, including, but not limited to, naturally-occurring topographical forms, intentionally-designed lawns, hedges, walkways, driveways, fences, walls, arbors, pergolas, trellises, terraces, water features, topography, lighting standards, and furnishings.”
Where specific site and landscape elements are designated as significant features, the Historic Preservation Commission must consider the appropriate level of protection for those features when new development or improvements are proposed at a designated property. Normal attrition of natural site elements is anticipated; however, replacement of landscape features, lost through natural attrition, would not require replacement. If historic site or landscape elements are not identified for specific lots or sites, then the Commission has no grounds to consider those elements when reviewing proposals for property improvements in the future.
Are specific plant material and landscape plans subject to review for historically-designated properties?
It appears that one or more person(s) has objected to the inclusion in the proposed Historic District. How will that affect the nomination?
Objections will be considered during the Historic Preservation Commission deliberations, which may support or alter the boundaries of the proposed district in their recommendation to the City Council. Depending on the HPC recommendation, the number of valid objections may determine whether or not a simple majority or super-majority (2/3) of the City Council must vote in favor of designation of the proposed historic district.
Until the HPC hears and evaluates all testimony and makes a final recommendation to the City Council, the effect of the objections is indeterminable. At this point in time, a good number of unknown outcomes could impact the final HPC recommendation and City Council action.
Is it true that outside legal counsel has been hired, and, if so, why is this not a matter for the City attorney?
The City’s attorney identified a conflict of interest and recused himself from this matter. The City of Geneva is entitled to legal counsel in all matters and has engaged representation to assure that procedures and processes are followed, per ordinance, and that due process is extended to all interested residents. The engagement of legal counsel, upon the recusal of regular counsel, is not an extraordinary expenditure resulting from the filing of the proposed South Geneva Historic District nomination.
Will the City of Geneva or the five applicants ultimately pay for legal services related to the nomination of the proposed South Geneva Historic District?
As in all City matters, legal counsel is budgeted annually and budgeted money is expended accordingly, as necessary.
Which costs associated with the petition will be billed to the applicants and which will be paid by taxpayers?
Based on prior legal opinion, only those costs resulting from an applicant’s direct request(s) or action(s) beyond those rights and privileges afforded an applicant under City ordinance may be recovered from an applicant. Other expenses, including legal review and staff time that are ordinary in the course of City review of any application or request, are not assignable to the applicant. Similarly, related legal or staff expenses, generated by residents opposing or supporting an application or action permitted by ordinance, are not attributable to an applicant.
UPDATE – MARCH 8: Upon further review by legal counsel due to a citizen inquiry at the March 4 City Council meeting, the answer above remains the same.
Did representatives on the City Council have any prior knowledge of this action to engage outside legal counsel?
No. The City of Geneva is entitled to legal counsel in all matters. It is within the authority of the City Administrator to ensure that the City of Geneva has legal counsel available as needed, provided it is within her expenditure and budget authority.