Would Conservation Districts Be a Good Addition To D.C.’s Perservation Toolbox?

Draft preservation planCurrently, 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.

Explore posts in the same categories: Historic Preservation Office.


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2 Comments on “Would Conservation Districts Be a Good Addition To D.C.’s Perservation Toolbox?”

  1. Cliff Says:

    Personally, I think conservation districts should be a standard part of zoning and would love if Park View were one. They provide realistic review for development when it can change the charcter of a neighborhood, but not so detailed that it gets in the way of standard improvements that people want to make to their homes. I used to live in a historic district, and I’m glad the character of the neighborhood was being preserved, but it was a royal pain in the butt just to paint a window.

  2. […] From my perspective, I do think there are a few issues with the zoning rewrite but that it is generally a move in the right direction. The areas of concern I have are not because of what the ZRR does, but rather what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t address aesthetics in any meaningful way which is a concern that frequently is used by residents coming to ANC meetings in opposition of Zoning Variance requests. But then again, one could argue that “pop ups” and aesthetics really aren’t zoning issues, but rather preservation issues. Perhaps the best approach would be to adopt the more liberal zoning proposal and create large conservation districts for the prewar neighborhoods that don’t currently enjoy historic district protection, an approached I’ve already suggested before. […]

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