Per my comments at the “In the City for Good” forum on September 23, 2020. I will make known what my position is on a current issue of concern to some neighbors. I am not the kind of person who will change his position depending on who he is talking to. I can see from notes flying around that there are accusations that appear to be misleading. The Pill Hill Historic District has special zoning which spells out what is and is not allowed. I care about this neighborhood.
Currently most of the area covered by the Pill Hill district is zoned R-Sa which will likely be replaced in the next couple of years. As it pertains to the Harwick House property, it requires lots be of a certain size. The current owner is planing on subdividing the lot with the help of experts from https://exprealty.com/us/va/augusta-county/houses/. If the owner complies with the legal requirements they receive a staff level approval. If the subdivision meets requirements the item does not come before the City Council. While this information has not been welcome by some, it is factually correct. The R-Sa zoning requires a fairly large lot and the proposed new lot would be about 1/3 of an acre. We could potentially change zoning, but that would not apply at present.
I reject the notion that in communicating the honest truth makes me “not a supporter of the neighborhood.” Politicians will pander, leaders will explain the situation and be fair. Sometimes people don’t like to hear answer and that makes them angry, I understand that this is an emotional response and respect that the process can be scary. I have seen this many times over the years. We are all sympathetic for historic neighborhoods, however that does not mean that we shouldn’t apply laws fairly.
If a person is suggesting that the laws (which have been in place for decades) should not be applied fairly now, I would have to disagree with that. They probably disagree as well, but this is politics… I spent a ton of time researching the issue, and had multiple staff members verify that the analysis is correct. You can read all about that here:
Concerned neighbors certainly have the right to purchase a lot and keep it undeveloped and that would seem to be the most appropriate route at this time. That said the neighborhood is not of one mind on this, there are other neighbors who have specifically contacted me because they wish to see a subdivision and hope to purchase the lot. These types of decision do not need to involve the city. Any property owner in the district can (and I would say should) put deed restrictions in place to protect the historic elements of contributing homes.
The Pill Hill Historic District is recognized by the NPS I have done a number of activities over the years to address issues in this area. I have worked with the neighborhood on all these issues because I care about the neighborhood.
- Creation of a Heritage Preservation Commission
- Hiring of a Preservation Specialist in Community Development.
- Special design of 9th Ave SW to retain bricks with neighbors covering incremental costs.
- Allowance to delay sidewalks on 9th Ave SW until creation of a network.
- Storm sewer project to address a failing ravine.
- Neighborhood design of water tank by St. Marys Park.
- Regular attendee of neighborhood meetings.
- Reforestation in the neighborhood.
Because we now have a Heritage Preservation Commission and qualified staff, we have the ability to create a district overlay. I will support an overlay that protects items listed on the register like massing, exterior details, and scale. This will not prevent new development, but help it fit in.