Currently, the only preservation option available in D.C. on the neighborhood-wide level is a Historic District. Creating one, however, can be involved, requires consensus, and has its fair share of opponents. However, if there were a third option between strict preservation and nothing, would this be desirable?
While reviewing the DRAFT 2016 District of Columbia Historic Preservation Plan that is currently out for comment (HPO is still interested in comments even though the original deadline has passed) and speaking to others reviewing the draft plan, one thought that has come up is the creation of Conservation Districts. Essentially, a Conservation District would have some of the protections of a Historic District, but not all of them. An example could be architectural review for construction before issuance of permits, but no review for things like new windows. The intent of a Conservation District is to provide some protection to the historic fabric of neighborhoods where a full-fledged Historic District is deemed to restrictive.
Reportedly, Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning is not in favor of Conservation Districts. Her concern is that if the District includes this option that the City would never have another Historic District again. I’m a little more optimistic. I believe that there are instances when a Conservation District might be a more appropriate approach to some neighborhoods.
I also believe that even should they never come to pass, there are ample opportunities to enhance the District’s existing approach to preservation and maintain the character of our neighborhoods while allowing new development. I encourage residents who are interested in the fabric of their neighborhoods to take a look at the draft preservation plan and submit comments on what works, what doesn’t, and what can be improved.