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Jun. 2, 2020 | Tuesday
Editorials and Opinions
ArchiText: Another option ...
Benign neglect. (Brian Marshall/Special)

Occasionally, the luckiest amongst us have the opportunity to take possession of a property that breathes history.

From among that small group, there are a few individuals who understand they are merely the custodians of this heritage and are moved to designate the property. While these folks (and those intrepid volunteers who support them) should be celebrated, they are in the minority.

Far too many Canadian houses of historical and/or architectural distinction languish in a state of neglect or are subject to the vagaries of an owner’s “taste-of-the-day” renovations.

The English system we looked at last week engages the entire community in the protection process, whereas our American neighbours in the “land of the free” have generally adopted rigidly enforced architectural controls which apply to a district, community or an entire city.

Essentially, any build, addition or renovation must pass an architectural review to ensure that all elements conform to their architectural theme and standards.

These controls can be both broadly proscriptive and extremely detailed. Consider Meridian Beach, Calif., where it’s nearly impossible to receive approval for any new residence in a style other than Arts & Crafts (the local theme). And in the Historic District of Bedford, Mass., the guidelines detail all acceptable exterior paint colours, and the proposed paint scheme (surface, trim and accents) must be submitted for individual approval.

Now, while the architectural guidelines instituted by more than 500 U.S. cities do not provide individual protection to heritage properties, these standards establish frameworks resulting in protection of homes within 2,300 historical districts across the country.

These districts, formed by state or local legislation, typically have laws and/or bylaws in place that restrict demolition/alteration of a home and occasionally enforce maintenance requirements.

Incidentally, the value of houses within these districts typically appreciates 4 per cent to 12 per cent faster than the local average, a pretty good ROI.

Neither England nor the United States may have “the” solution for NOTL, but, in my opinion, either is a significant improvement over where we sit now.