The Historic District Commission of Howard County will hear testimony at the end of its meeting tomorrow on proposed revisions to operating procedures and the zoning code pertaining to the commission.
Since Howard's first historic district was established in 1974, the commission has been charged with protecting the character of the historic districts in Ellicott City and Lawyers Hill in Elkridge. The commission must review and grant approvals before construction, demolition or alterations to the exteriors of properties in the district can take place.
Developed at six to eight months of work sessions, the proposed changes include several definitions and clarification. The changes also establish a process for property owners to seek the advice of the commission about a project before investing in one.
"It was very informal," said Stephen Lafferty, deputy planning director. "This actually codifies that option."
Some of the revisions also specify that the Historic District Commission has no authority to review grading and other initial work for a subdivision, which is approved through the site development process. The commission reviews architectural plans.
Members of the Patapsco Heights Church Road Community Association say this affords developers a free hand to change the historic district, while homeowners must seek approval to cut down a tree.
They appealed the approval of the Woods at Park Place subdivision, but Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. affirmed in July that the commission has no authority over the location of homes and site preparation work in subdivisions.
These changes disappoint Robert C. Brown, who represented the residents' group.
"Historic districts are more than just bricks and mortar," he said. "They're really the environment. ... You have to look at the total package. If you don't do that, you have to degrade what's here."
Plans for two homes for the Woods at Park Place will be heard at tomorrow's meeting.
The Historic District Commission will meet at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow in the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City.