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City Council to review historic-district ordinance

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Fredericksburg City Council will review its historic district ordinance next month to address concerns about enforcement.

The issue is a longstanding concern that came up again this week over changes made at a home on Prince Edward Street, which is within the district.

Residents filed a complaint with the city after the homeowner replaced windows and removed a two-foot-tall brick wall along the sidewalk on two sides of the property without seeking city approval.

Four residents spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting, saying they want a closer watch on the historic district and enforcement of the district’s ordinance. One man asked for a full examination of the ordinance and its administration by city staff.

Councilman Matt Kelly led the call for a review, which was supported by the entire council.

Evaluation of the ordinance, including enforcement issues, will be addressed at the council’s Dec. 10 work session.

According to city regulations outlined in Section 306 of the Unified Development Ordinance, one of the main purposes of the district is to “protect, restore and preserve the architectural integrity of existing structures in the district.”

The ordinance states that a certificate of appropriateness is required for new construction, additions or expansions to an existing principal structure, changes to the exterior of a building visible from the street and installation of a new fence, wall or sign.

Planning Director Chuck Johnston said Friday that his staff has begun drafting language to provide greater detail on what is required.

That information will be presented to the council at next month’s work session. Information will eventually be relayed to the Architectural Review Board for its consideration.

Kelly said this week that the ordinance is fine but the administration of it needs improvement.

“We need a set of rules and regulations evenly applied to everybody that everybody understands,” he said Tuesday night.

He said he wants to provide an opportunity for public input as the review moves forward, including feedback from the ARB and the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation Inc.

Councilwoman Bea Paolucci said the city needs to establish a standard for documentation and that the work session is a good first step to address concerns.

In a memo to the council, Kelly said five issues need to be addressed:

Establish whether staff has authority to make decisions regarding modifications without bringing the changes to the ARB.

Establish procedures to document decisions made outside of ARB action.

Set criteria to address how to deal with violations of the historic district ordinance.

Determine whether the city has sufficient staff to address enforcement.

City Attorney Kathleen Dooley addressed the fifth issue at the meeting regarding legal options for violations.

She said the city would follow the same procedures as for any zoning violation. That would include progressive steps starting with informal notification of the property owner, followed by a formal letter outlining the violation. Eventually, the city could pursue civil action including an injunction and the levying of fines.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com

CITY COUNCIL CREATES ARCHAEOLOGY GROUP

On Tuesday, Fredericksburg City Council voted unanimously to create an archaeology working group to begin developing an archaeology ordinance for the city.

The group’s task will be to create a general outline and scope for the ordinance that would then be submitted for review to both the council and planning commission.

The working group approved by unanimous vote of the council includes: Sean Maroney from the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation; Chris Uebelhor with the Fredericksburg Area Museum; Eric Mink of the National Park Service; Chris Hornung and Larry Welford from the development community; Douglas Sanford from the University of Mary Washington’s Department of Historic Preservation; David Muraca representing The George Washington Foundation, which operates Kenmore and Ferry Farm; and council members Matt Kelly and Bea Paolucci. Senior Planner Erik Nelson will provide staff support.

—Pamela Gould

WANT TO GO?

City Council will hold a work session at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 10 to discuss the administration and enforcement of the historic district ordinance.

Work sessions are held in a conference room on the second floor of City Hall, 715 Princess Anne St.

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