LOCAL HISTORIC DISTRICT FAQs

Why Yalecrest as a local historic district?
This historic neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and there is a strong desire to preserve its integrity. The neighborhood is threatened, as there have been more than 32 heritage structures demolished since 1998. These heritage homes are irreplaceable, gone forever once demolished for a rebuild. Members of K.E.E.P. Yalecrest  have been working on preservation and compatibility issues for more than a decade, and it’s a priority for the city of Salt Lake as well.

What is an historic district?
A historic district is a group of buildings, properties or sites that have been designated by the City as historically and/or architecturally significant. Buildings, structures, objects and sites within an historic district are normally divided into two categories: contributing or noncontributing.

  • Contributing structures in Yalecrest are at least 50 years old, must retain their original architectural integrity, and/or have an association to an important person or piece of Salt Lake City history
  • Non-contributing structures either do not meet these criteria, or have had their historical features altered

Yalecrest retains a remarkably high degree of historic integrity with 91 percent of homes contributing to the historic character of the neighborhood. For information about Salt Lake City’s historic districts, visit SLCgov.com/historicpreservation

How will this affect my property value?
Numerous studies show local historic districts help maintain property values and weather recessions and real estate bubbles. A recent Utah-specific economic study shows property values in Salt Lake historic districts remained higher than those of the rest of the city for the past decade.

One nationwide study found:

Historic district designation typically increases residential property values by 5-35% per decade over the values in similar, undesignated neighborhoods.
• Both nationally designated historic districts and locally designated historic districts outperform similar, undesignated neighborhoods, but districts that carry both local and national designation experience the highest relative increases in property values.
• The values of newer properties within designated historic districts increase along with those of older properties.
• Local historic district designation decreases investor uncertainty and insulates property values from wild swings in the housing market.

How is a local historic district established?
An application to create a new local historic district can be initiated by the Mayor, a majority of the City Council members or a property owner with the support of 15 percent of the property owners within the proposed historic district. Support of property owners is demonstrated by signatures obtained by the applicant within a six month time frame.

What happens after an application is filed?
Once an application has been submitted to create a local historic district or a character conservation district, the new ordinances establish the following steps:

1. Public Outreach Process: The City Planning Staff conduct a public outreach process to help property owners within the proposed local historic district or character conservation district understand what the regulations and benefits are to owning property within such a district

2. Public Hearing Process: The proposed historic district or character conservation district will be considered first by the City’s Historic Landmark Commission and then the Planning Commission. Each commission will hold at least one public hearing before forwarding recommendations to the City Council.

3. Public Support Ballot: Before the City Council considers the recommendations of the Historic Landmark and Planning commissions, a public support ballot will be mailed to all property owners within the proposed district to determine the level of support by property owners for the designation of the historic district or character conservation district.

4. City Council Consideration: Following the public support balloting, the City Council will hold at least one public hearing before deciding whether or not to designate a new local historic district or create a character conservation district. If a majority of the property owners who voted in the public support ballot process support the creation of a new district, the City Council may, by a majority vote, approve the district. If less than a majority of property owners who voted in the public support ballot process support the proposed district, the City Council may only approve the proposed district by a super-majority vote (five Council members).

What kind of protection does a local historic district provide?
Local historic districts usually enjoy the greatest level of protection under law from any issues that may compromise historic integrity. This is because many land-use decisions are made at the local level. Salt Lake LHD is zoned with an (H) Preservation Overlay that regulates alterations to and demolitions of properties, as well as new construction. Local building design criteria are derived from the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings. Read the guidelines > Preservation Handbook & Design Guidelines

What is included with a local historic district?

  • Demolition denial, with an appeal process for economic hardship, safety or life-threatening circumstances
  • Design review by City planning staff and/or the Historic Landmark Commission (HLC)
  • Public notification process
  • Design guidelines that provide local standards and may be appealed; along with national guidelines that must be adhered to in design review
  • The HLC’s decisions are binding, not advisory, and are enforced by the City’s planning staff, building services division (when a permit is pulled), and the enforcement division on the ground during construction

A local historic district does not:

  • Restrict the use of a property
  • Prevent owners from making changes
  • Require restoration or demolition
  • Require additional permits for painting, minor repairs or interior work
  • De-value a property

What is the purpose of design guidelines?
Salt Lake City local historic districts are subject to the Design Guidelines for Residential Historic Districts. The purpose of the guidelines is to make sure character-defining features of a building are not altered. Keeping original features of an historic home maintains the value of the home and the historic character of the district. The guidelines focus on key preservation principles:

  • Respect the historic design character of the building
  • Seek uses that are compatible with the historic character of the building
  • Protect and maintain significant features and stylish elements
  • Preserve any existing original site features or original building materials and features
  • Repair deteriorated historic features and replace only those elements that cannot be repaired

What about my property rights?
Private property rights are among the most important rights enjoyed by Americans. They give us financial security and they help protect our personal investments. Precious as they are, our property rights are not absolute—they come with responsibilities. Communities routinely make investments and create land use policies that affect property rights and changes in property values for the greater good. Regulating teardowns is no different because they impact our quality of life and the property rights and investments of the people who have to live with the results. (Source: preservationnation.org)

Read more about how the concept of property rights has changed over time in this Introduction to Property Rights: A Historical Perspective from University of Illinois Extension.

Will I be required to renovate my house?
No. Local historic district designation does not require homeowners to restore or fix up their property.

What about work inside my home?
OK. Interior changes that do not affect the outside appearance are not reviewed.

Can I paint my house?
Yes, homeowners are free to paint their homes—with no restrictions on color.

What about rebuilding or remodeling my garage?
Construction of garages and accessory structures will need to follow the same design review guidelines as houses, and will be considered in the context of the home.

Can I remodel or make home improvements?
Yes, local historic designation does not prevent owners from making changes to their property. It ensures that alterations, additions or demolitions are kept within the special character and scale of the area. Minor improvements can be quickly approved by the city’s preservation planners. Extensive or major changes are reviewed by the HLC.

Can I build an addition to my home?
Yes, property owners are encouraged to design additions in keeping with their home’s architectural style and using compatible building materials. There should be delineations between the old structure and new (these can be extremely subtle). Depending on the location of the addition, a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) could be handled through administrative review while a smaller portion of requests typically go to the HLC for review.

Isn’t it more energy-efficient to replace old windows?
Loss of energy through single pane glass is really the issue, so adding storm windows is a good solution. The most cost-effective energy conservation measures for most historic windows are to replace glazing compound, repair the wood members if necessary (usually the frame will be structurally sound) and install weather stripping. Here’s a study on the value of window repair and retrofitting.

Aren’t new homes more energy efficient?
Actually, the majority of energy loss is through a building’s roof—not windows—so attic insulation with an R-value of 38 or more is great for both old and new homes. Properly maintained old wood windows are generally better-fitting with fewer areas for draft, so while single-pane glass may be colder than double-paned, there is less heat loss in areas around the window. Paired with storm windows, historic wood windows can be more energy efficient than new windows. In most cases, the time it takes to realize the savings from replacement windows is often past the expected life of the window. For more information on preserving historic windows, read “Preservation Brief #9: Repair of Historic Wooden Windows.”

What is a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA)?
In a local historic district, a COA is needed before a building permit can be issued. It would be required for work that physically changes the exterior appearance of the property, such as:

  • Enclosing a porch
  • Demolishing all or part of a structure
  • Replacing windows and doors
  • Installing siding or re-roofing

How long does it take to get a COA?
Administrative reviews are conducted by a City planner and, depending on complexity, take about a week or two. More complex projects such as major additions will need to be reviewed by the Historic Landmark Commission at its monthly meeting.

We took a quick look at the percentage of the HLC applications considered in a recent 12 month period to determine the percentage of requests for Certificates of Appropriateness (all requests for alterations, additions, new construction, demolition) that were approved administratively versus being considered by the Historic Landmark Commission. We found that 93% of all HLC applications were approved administratively and 7% were forwarded to the Commission for a decision. Of applications that were forwarded to the commission, 91% of the requests were approved.

Who serves on the Historic Landmark Commission?
Nine to 15 members from various areas of Salt Lake (including the current historic districts), appointed by the Mayor, whose purpose is to preserve buildings and sites of historic and architectural significance. Their review authority extends to properties and street features within neighborhoods designated as historic districts. .

Isn’t a new home safer in an earthquake?
Every home has a level of uncertainty in a seismic event and seismic retrofitting is usually less expensive than demolishing a home. There are methods of reducing the risk of earthquake damage in historic homes, and if carefully planned and executed, these retrofitting techniques can upgrade the safety of the home while at the same time being sensitive to the historic fabric of the house. For information on seismic retrofitting, visit Utah State HIstory’s Bracing for the Big One and “Preservation Brief #41: The Seismic Retrofit of Historic Buildings” on the National Park Service page.

Are tax credits available for home improvements?
Yes. Tax credits are already available to Yalecrest residents for qualifying home improvement projects because Yalecrest is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Federal guidelines must be followed—nearly the same guidelines that would be in place for the local historic district. Yalecrest currently has the highest number of applicants in Utah trying to capture those tax credits—proof that residents are willing to accept the guidelines. Information on the Utah Historic Preservation Tax Credit.

What does “preservation” mean?
In city planning preservation involves a wise use of resources, and includes: sensitive stewardship, careful planning and harmonious new development. Historic districts protect an area’s important historic qualities while allowing for change and new construction that accommodates today’s lifestyles.

What is Salt Lake City’s preservation policy?
Salt Lake City has a nationally recognized preservation program and in 2009 completed its first draft historic preservation plan, finalizing it in 2012. The city-wide preservation vision includes supporting goals and implementation strategies to guide future historic preservation efforts in the city. The plan states “though the Yalecrest Historic District generally continues to exhibit a good level of physical integrity relative to many other neighborhoods in the City, numerous comments received during this planning process expressed concern about teardowns and inappropriate infill.”

Also in the plan’s historic district field analysis in 2007-08, Yalecrest was given a “High” priority level as its status is “Compromised,” and stronger protections to control demolitions and teardowns were recommended.

Would Yalecrest be Salt Lake’s first local historic district?
The Yalecrest neighborhood is not the first to be considered for designation. There are seven local historic districts in Salt Lake:

  • Avenues
  • Capitol Hill
  • Central City
  • Exchange Place
  • South Temple
  • University
  • Westmoreland Place

See map > Salt Lake City Historic Districts

What does “contributing” mean?
The 2007 National Register nomination talks about the survey of structures, determining those that are historically contributing and those that are not:

Buildings were classified as either contributing or non-contributing based on the results of a reconnaissance level survey of the Yalecrest area in 2005. Each building was evaluated for eligibility using the following guidelines set by the Utah State Historic Preservation Office.

A – Eligible/significant: built within the historic period and retains integrity; excellent example of a style or type; unaltered or only minor alterations or additions; individually eligible for National Register under criterion “C,” architectural significance; also, buildings of known historical significance.

B – Eligible: built within the historic period and retains integrity; good example of a style or type, but not as well-preserved or well-executed as “A” buildings, though overall integrity is retained; eligible for National Register as part of a potential historic district or primarily for historical, rather than architectural, reasons. The additions do not detract and may be reversible.

C – Ineligible: built during the historic period but has had major alterations or additions; no longer retains integrity. The resource may still have local historical significance.

D – Out-of-period: constructed outside the historic period.

Evaluations are based primarily on age and architectural integrity. A building may sometimes appear newer than its actual construction date because of intrusive alterations and additions. Surveyors attempt to determine the oldest portion of the building by looking for signs of greater age such as composition, massing, fenestration, foundation materials, chimneys and landscaping.

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