What is a Historic District?
In 1999, the Grosse Pointe Farms City Council approved a Historic Districts Ordinance and Grosse Pointe Farms' first four historic districts. The ordinance provides for the designation of local historic districts, the establishment of the Historic District Commission which oversees administration of the program, and also outlines the procedures that govern its implementation. The Historic Districts Ordinance establishes a review process to ensure that exterior changes to properties within historic districts serve to maintain the home's historic character and value, and the historic character of the district itself.
The Historic District Commission (HDC) is a body of seven volunteers, appointed by the City Council, which meets monthly (generally the second Wednesday of each month) at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. The Commission's responsibilities include reviewing the requests for changes in historic districts and educating the community about, and advocating the preservation of, significant resources. The HDC also maintains a file of helpful materials on restoration, architecture, contractors and other information related to historic districts and their maintenance.
How does a site qualify for designation?
To be eligible for designation a resource must, in most cases, be at least 50 years old. Criteria for historic designation mirror those of the National and State Historic Registers, and generally include properties:
That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
That are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or
That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
That have yielded, or may be likely to yield, important historical information.
What are the advantages of designation?
Protects historic properties from demolition or inappropriate alteration;
Preserves landmarks for the enjoyment and education of future generations;
Protects and enhances property values by offering consistent standards and criteria for remodeling and for ensuring the stability and character of a neighborhood into the future;
Allows owners of designated properties to qualify for 25% state investment tax credit;
Makes available professional guidance on appropriate alterations to historic sites;
Encourages adaptive reuse of threatened historic structures.
What are the requirements for property owners in historic districts?
According to the Grosse Pointe Farms Historic Districts Ordinance (Section 5), before making any additions, alterations or repairs affecting the exterior of a resource in a historic district, an application to the HDC must be made for a "Certificate of Appropriateness" to ensure that such work will comply with requirements set forth in the Ordinance. This applies only to "work that affects the exterior appearance of the resource when viewed from the street or other public property" or "work that would diminish the structural integrity of the resource." This does not include ordinary maintenance like painting or normal repair with original materials. Also, none of the historic district regulations is retroactive. They only apply to work that is to be done from the time the district is formed.
It is important to remember that it is the responsibility of the property owner in a historic district to obtain an application for a "Certificate of Appropriateness" from the HDC, as well as any necessary building permits, prior to any of the following proposed changes that are viewable from the street or other public property:
New construction or additions to existing property.
Door, window, roof, porch, gutter, etc. - repair or replacement. However, repairs that are basic maintenance or are replacement items matching existing or original materials and design do not require HDC approval.
Changes in types of materials/design, removal of a feature.
Cleaning of exterior masonry or siding.
Painting of masonry, stone, bricks, foundation, and metal, or other surfaces that have never been previously painted. Painting of siding, trim, and other previously painted elements do not require approval.
Demolition or moving of a building.
Changes to any feature that contributes to the character of the district (e.g., gates, historic plantings, walls, etc.)
What are the guidelines used by the HDC?
In making decisions about appropriate restoration or new construction, the Historic District Commission utilizes "The Secretary of Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation", taking into account which features of the property most define its significance and assessing the potential impact of the project on them.
In general, the guidelines that the HDC follows are:
It is better to repair than replace.
It is better to replace with like materials.
Cost and feasibility of the recommended methods of restoration may be a factor.
Copies of the complete guidelines that accompany the Secretary's Standards are available at City offices.
Can decisions of the HDC be appealed?
The Historic District Commission makes every effort to work with the owner of a historic property to recommend, where necessary, appropriate suggestions for completing the proposed project within the stated guidelines. However, decisions of the Historic District Commission may be appealed to the City Council or the State Historic Preservation Review Board, and ultimately, to the Circuit Court, as provided in Section 9 of the Historic Districts Ordinance.
Overview of Application Procedure
Procedure for Application Review
Owner or contractor obtains Application for Certificate of Appropriateness from Grosse Pointe Farms Building Department and returns completed form and supporting material to the same. The application requires the signature of a member of the HDC to be considered complete and a nominal fee paid (or waived if a building permit is also required.)
The completed application must be submitted for review of the HDC at least two weeks prior to its monthly meeting, generally held the second Wednesday of each month. The HDC is required to meet to review an application within 35 days of its submission and to make a determination within 60 days of the receipt of a completed application.
The HDC holds a public hearing at its monthly meeting, 7:30 p.m., at the City Council Chambers, 90 Kerby Road. All interested parties should attend. The applicant will be asked to provide an overview of the proposal. Others in attendance will be given the opportunity to question or comment on the proposal. Then the application will be considered and a determination made to approve, deny, table, etc. All applicants will be notified in writing of the action taken.
If the application is approved, a Certificate of Appropriateness or a Notice to Proceed and a building permit application (if required) will be issued, and immediately transmitted to the Building Department. The Building Department will periodically inspect the work approved by the HDC and take appropriate action to ensure compliance with the approved plan.
Should the application be denied, the applicant has the opportunity to resubmit a revised proposal or to appeal the decision of the HDC to the City Council or to the State Historic Preservation Review Board.
Please note: When you anticipate ROUTINE MAINTENANCE, it is recommended that you contact the HDC to verify that your contemplated work is classified as routine maintenance or other exempted work.
The HDC encourages property owners to informally review potential or proposed work and gain early input from the Commission at its monthly meeting. To request placement on an upcoming agenda as a study item, please contact the Chair. An application is not required for consideration as a study item.
If you have any questions about the process, please feel free to contact any member of the Historic District Commission or the Building Department, City of Grosse Pointe Farms, 885-6600.
Listing of Historic District Commissioners and Districts, 2007
Patricia Colett, 32 Winthrop Place
Peter Demczuk, 31 Beverly Road
Jane Fox, 96 Lothrop
Erick Hagelthorn, 168 Kerby
William Hartman, 265 Lewiston
John Snyder, 63 Vendome
Andrea Sullivan, 80 Moross Road
- Grosse Pointe Farms Water Filtration Station and Joy Bells - Moross Road
- Grosse Pointe Farms Pumping Station - Chalfonte Avenue
- The Provencal-Weir House - 376 Kercheval Avenue
- Beverly Road
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