First Community Mortegage Jose Avila

Whats the Big Deal About Historical Properties Part 2

Whats the Big Deal About Historical Properties Part 2

August 18, 2017
As set forth in the 1978 El Paso Landmark Preservation Ordinance Number 6243, the City Council of El Paso has committed our community to the protection, enhancement, preservation, and use of historically valuable landmarks.  These landmarks represent our unique and irreplaceable architectural, archaeological, cultural, social, economic, ethnic, and political heritage. They serve as open-air exhibits of our colorful patrimony, educating the public, validating our history and bi-national culture, promoting civic pride and tourism, stabilizing and improving property values, and contributing to the general prosperity and well-being of the people.
 
To those ends, the Historical Preservation Office has adopted design guidelines for restoration, remodeling, rehabilitation, and even new construction in historic neighborhoods to protect our city's historical treasures and create a harmonious and supportive environment.
 
Most interiors of historical buildings and homes may be modernized to the taste and convenience of the owners, subject, of course, to current safety and building codes.  The outside features, however, must conform as much as possible in historical integrity to the original.  For minor improvements, the Historical Preservation staff may review an application and approve or deny it on the spot.  If approved, the owner must request any required building permits.
 
For major work, the Historical Landmark Commission must involve the City Council to approve or deny an application.  The process could take up to 30 days, in order to be included on the Council meeting agenda.  If the application is approved, the Commission will mail the owner a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA), and work may start once the building permits are secured.  If the application is denied, the owner may file an appeal with the City Clerk within 15 days. The City Council will hear the appeal at its next meeting.  If the appeal is approved, the owner must secure building permits before commencing work.  All proposed work must comply with current City Codes and with the Administrative Review Design Guidelines.
 
The Historic Landmark Commission requires a public hearing for any new construction in a historic area; any major alterations to the facades, porches, garages, and appurtenances of existing property; demolition or removal of any portion of a structure in a historic district or with an independent H-Overlay; and any complaints concerning demolition by neglect.                                      
 
Concerned with STREETSCAPES, the Commission aims for the aesthetic and architectural integrity of the area.  Height, scale, and building proportions should conform to the pattern and rhythm set by existing properties.  Setbacks and building boundaries should not be disturbed.  Any new additions should conserve the character-defining features of the original and be minimally visible from the public right of way.
 
PARKING AND DRIVEWAYS should be retained in their original locations and as originally designed. If more parking is required, it should be located at the rear of the property, using approved materials and allowing for 50% of the surface to be landscaped in permeable materials or trees or ground cover.
 
FENCES AND WALLS may be rock, brick, wood, and wrought iron - any material that is consistent with the neighborhood and compatible in design, scale, location, height, and size with neighboring properties. Chain link, concrete block, landscape timbers, railroad ties, and other modern materials, are not appropriate.  The height and style of a fence should complement and not eclipse the structure as viewed from the street.
 
EXTERIOR LIGHTS may include genuine or replica fixtures reflecting the property's vintage.  Modern lighting should be simple and must comply with the city's dark sky ordinance requirements.  Floodlights, security lighting on standard height power poles, and directional site lighting and motion detectors that invade adjacent properties are not appropriate. 
 
SITE FEATURES include swimming pools, playground equipment, concrete pads and basketball goals, sheds, tree houses, pergolas, terraces, and gardens and should be in the rear yards. Dumpsters and trash receptacles, in particular, should be adequately screened from view from the public right of way and adjoining residences with appropriate fencing and/or vegetation. Prefab metal structures are not appropriate.
 
RARE HISTORICAL DETAILS AND FIXTURES, such as hitching posts, stepping blocks, water troughs, decorative downspouts, and cast iron fences should be preserved, as they are irreplaceable.
 
WINDOWS should look as much as possible like the original in size, style, and materials, as they are character-defining features.  Replacement windows similar to the original in appearance and structural purpose, regardless of construction materials, may be permitted.  However, on the main facade, they should match the originals in style, type, operation configuration, and finish.  A sash window with six panes, for example, must not be replaced with a fixed pane picture window.  On secondary facades, any deviation from the standard will be judged on a case by case basis. Unpainted aluminum, anodized, and other types of unfinished metal storm windows are not permitted.  
 
Like windows, DOORS must match the building's architectural style.  When possible, damaged doors should be repaired by patching, splicing, consolidating, or otherwise reinforcing the deteriorated parts to avoid removing historic parts.  When repairs are not possible, door and window products will be reviewed for architectural and historical compatibility, comparison to the original, and historical significance to the architecture of the building. Storm and screen doors must not conceal historic doors.
 
ROOF style may not be changed.  The distinctive features of the roof, whether flat with parapets or hipped or gabled with front facing gables or with dormers should not be altered.  When original roofing materials are no longer available or manufactured, replacement materials must match the original or existing materials as much as possible.  Masonry tiles may not be painted.  CHIMNEYS should be maintained, not removed or shortened, and if spark arrestors are installed, they should meet city code requirements. 
 
Paint COLOR must be selected from a palette of neutral or muted tones commonly and historically used in the area.  Wood may be painted, but not stuccoed or spray textured. It is inappropriate to sandblast or otherwise remove paint from masonry with high-pressure methods, which permanently damage the masonry. It is also inappropriate to paint brick, stone, terra cotta, copper, bronze, concrete, or cement block surfaces that had not been painted before.  It is not appropriate to strip down exterior wood and refinish with varnish.  Replacing wood siding that shows visible texture with new siding is not appropriate, either.   
 
This article barely scratches the surface.  The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings provides comprehensive, practical advice for cleaning and repairing masonry and other historical elements and addressing myriad questions owners of historic properties all over the country may have.  It also addresses retrofitting buildings with modern components, such as air conditioning and solar equipment and other issues that you may not even have thought of.  The guidelines are available online.
 
Further information is also available locally at the Office of Historic Preservation, 2nd Floor, 801 Texas Avenue, El Paso, TX 79901 (915) 212-1567.

By Tanya Ocampo, RE/MAX Real Estate Group