A proposed Old Town College Park Historic District could prevent or slow new, pedestrian-scale development connecting the campus and downtown to the Metro station. The proposed district includes structures on both sides of Calvert Road, a street several groups from last spring’s design charrette targeted for dense development to create a pedestrian corridor running from the Metro station to downtown, the Knox Road area, and the campus.
If approved, the historic district would require all property owners within the district boundary — whether or not their property was identified as “historic” — to obtain a special “Historic Area Work Permit” from the County before engaging in any type of construction. Owners of “historic” properties would be eligible for tax credits/incentives on approved restoration and construction projects. When the City Council approved the nomination at their May 9, 2006 meeting several citizens spoke against the proposal, calling the additional permits that would be required a “hardship,” “headache” and “hassle,” and complaining it could be difficult to find contractors familiar with historic district restrictions. Several speakers cited a poll that found a majority of homes in the proposed district area did not want the district, although the minutes record the Old Town Civic Association submitted a letter in support of the district.
According to information provided to us by city planner Elisa Vitale, the historic district was conceived in 2000 by city officials and approved in 2004 by the county. However, she describes what happened after an appeal:
The HPC decision was appealed and the case was forwarded to the Zoning Hearing Examiner. The Hearing Examiner heard the case, and issued her decision in November of 2005. This decision upheld the designation of the area as a historic district as appropriate, but recommended that the case be remanded to the HPC due to failure of HPC staff to follow notice requirements. On March 13, 2006, the District Council heard oral arguments on the ZHE’s recommendation. On March 27, 2006, the District Council issued an order of remand and returned the case to the HPC. The HPC held a second a public hearing on the proposed district on June 1, 2006, and again voted in favor of designating the district. The HPC also adopted the revised
However, the June 1 decision has been appealed and will return to the Zoning Hearing Examiner. They have not yet set a hearing date, although we will post here when we hear when the date is set. We imagine this issue has proven so controversial because it involves not only historic preservation but also the property values of property owners, and whether or not the number of renters will increase in the neighborhood.
To read more about the restrictions of a Historic District, see the proposed design guidelines for Old Town, or view a map of the proposed district visit the new Old Town Historic District page in our library.