The Landmarks Law should be administered so that the best examples of City’s architectural and historic heritage continue to adapt and meet the needs of the citizens of the 21st Century.
LPC ‘s current regulatory practice effectively treats Historic Districts as “museum towns” where alterations and additions to contributing buildings are severely restricted or prohibited. There is nothing in the Landmarks Law that requires the LPC to impose such rigid standards or to insist that contributing buildings be restored over time to their original condition. Property owners should have greater flexibility to manage and maintain their properties, and the regulatory burden on all properties within a historic district should be fair and equal.
Rules and requirements must be crafted to recognize the challenges and costs inherent in occupying and maintaining an aging building. Property owners should not be required to restore buildings to their “historic” appearance when performing maintenance and repairs or undertaking routine tasks such as window replacement, particularly when a building had been altered or modernized at the time of designation.
Regulatory authority should not extend to the non-visible areas of designated building. Rear façade changes, roof top additions, backyard excavations, interior alterations, and similar work should not be subject to LPC approval.
The hardship provisions of the Landmarks Law are extremely onerous and only available to those few property owners who have the resources and wherewithal to undertake a costly legal process after designation. The Landmarks Law should allow for a variety of waivers and/or exemptions for cases of both financial and logistical hardships and allow these issues to be raised during the designation process. For example, a clear and workable standard for non-profit property owners should be established, property owners who have been denied a Certificate of Appropriateness should be allowed to appeal to the BSA, and a Chairman’s Override of a Commission denial should be permitted in defined circumstances where an applicant demonstrates hardship.
Nonprofit institutions should be subjected to less restrictive preservation regulations.
Building owners of existing calendared properties which have not had action taken by the LPC for at least 3 years should be permitted to request de-calendaring of their properties without a public hearing.