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Council votes to create historic district status for Hyde Park

Friday, December 17, 2010 by Josh Rosenblatt

It is official: Hyde Park is a Local Historic District.


Council put the exclamation point Thursday on a years-long effort by Hyde Park residents to get historic status for the neighborhood. Council denied a request for postponement from a neighborhood group opposed to the measure and voted unanimously in favor of creating the district.


The area encompassing the district is defined by 38th Street to the south, 45th Street to the north, Avenue A to the west, and Duval Street to the east.


The vote did not include Council Member Bill Spelman, who as a Hyde Park resident, recused himself from consideration of the ordinance.


The remaining Council members seemed pleased with the compromise supporters and critics of the Hyde Park proposal had reached after months of dispute over design standards. Back in November, a public hearing on the issue got heated, with critics of the plan claiming they were being strong-armed into voting for design standards that had been modified without their knowledge and that would unduly restrict homeowners’ property rights.


On Tuesday, however, city staff hosted and facilitated a meeting for stakeholders to discuss changes to the design standards drawn up by the original nomination team. That meeting proved successful, with participants agreeing to adopt nine changes and move forward with the approval process.


Those changes included:


        The phrase “clad in a traditional material or screened,” referring to rainwater collection tanks visible to pedestrians from the primary street, was not incorporated into the latest design standards. The provision stands, however, that those collection tanks must be “unobtrusive”;

        The prohibition against locating solar panels on the street sides of a structure was modified by adding the word “freestanding” to describe the panels that will be prohibited;

        The phrase “Do not use windows which contain the muntins and mullions (pane dividers) between the panes of glass – match the profile of the historic windows to be replaced” was cut from the “windows” section; and

        “To the greatest extent possible” was replaced by “where reasonably possible” in the section concerning the repair of damaged or deteriorated exterior wall materials.


The two sides could not agree on the issue of whether a house with two original front doors should be allowed to exist with only one front door.


Despite – or perhaps because of – the agreed-upon changes, those in opposition at the last public hearing called for a month-long postponement so that the new language could be mailed to everyone within the proposed district. Those seeking the postponement were the same people who had submitted the valid petition to the city that required Council to come up with a supermajority of six votes – everyone on the dais – to approve the rezoning. Council had no problem coming up with those votes.


Discussion was kept to a minimum, with Council members saving their deepest concern for the relationship between the Hyde Park neighbors that had strained during the last months.


“I know this has been a long process for the neighborhood,” said Council Member Sheryl Cole, “and that, of course, we have to make a decision today, but I’m hopeful that as we make that decision that the neighborhood will begin to repair and come together on the items that they can agree on.”


Council Member Randi Shade agreed. “I do want to recognize the work that’s been done, especially in the last couple of weeks,” she said. “I was really troubled (by the animosity) on all sides of the issue. Mostly because this wasn’t an issue of a development versus a neighborhood; this was neighbor against neighbor. I think we have some work to do, but, again, we are one community.”

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