The City of Madison Landmarks Ordinance Review Committee (LORC) put forth a proposal to update its Historic Preservation Ordinance. The proposed revisions would create a unified approach to altering historic structures within the city’s historic districts.
LORC’s revisions would affect Madison’s five historic districts, which are Mansion Hill, Third Lake Ridge, Marquette Bungalows, University Heights and First Settlement districts. These historic districts currently have separate ordinance requirements for alterations, additions and new construction.
The committee aims to establish a unified approach to historic preservation by creating one historic district ordinance that applies to all five districts. Anna Andrzejewski, a chair member of LORC, believes that the newly proposed standards will improve preservation efforts.
“The current ordinance includes different sets of standards for each of the five local historic districts and has evolved piecemeal over nearly five decades. The Landmarks Commission’s goal of preserving Madison’s unique historic resources will be best served by a more clear and consistent set of standards that reflect current preservation best practices,” Andrzejewski said.
City preservation planner Heather Bailey explained to the Wisconsin State Journal that efforts to create unified standards come as a result of uneven requirements between the districts. Mansion Hill, Madison’s oldest historic district, has few, vague standards. The city’s newest district, First Settlement, has more detailed standards.
“The standards for each district were created at the time each was established, over a period of nearly five decades,” Bailey said. “This has led to requirements and processes that are confusing for users. Each historic district ordinance reflects best practices in preservation at the time that it was created, but none of them have been updated since they were adopted.”
Bailey noted that adopting one ordinance across all historic districts may lead to unforeseen issues regarding historic preservation.
“While there is a lot of interest in making a more user-friendly process, there is also concern about change and unintended consequences,” Bailey said.
Andrzejewski believes that the language used to define structural changes under the current ordinance causes confusion. While one district only evaluates the street-facing side of the building, another district’s criteria includes any portion of a building visible by the street.
LORC began drafting revisions in 2017 and is seeking input through public meetings. To increase public input, LORC issued a survey on the city’s website to determine what changes residents want adopted.
Dis 19 Ald. and LORC chair member Keith Furman believes that public input is necessary for adopting a unified set of revisions.
“The Committee has worked diligently over 34 meetings to develop an ordinance that will provide clear and consistent standards and processes to the benefit of all users. We appreciate the many perspectives shared during the process that helped LORC understand the complexities of the current ordinance to develop what we feel is a model that will serve the city for years to come,” Furman said.
The next general public meeting covering the ordinance revisions process will take place on Feb. 3 over Zoom.