More on Conservation Districts

February 25, 2009 · Filed Under Events and News 

The Fort Worth City Council is considering a new option to help neighborhoods deal with infill single-family housing that is dramatically out of scale with its surroundings.

The city’s Planning and Development Department presented its proposal for conservation districts to the Council last week. Conservation districts offer protection to older neighborhoods that are not protected by historical designation. These districts provide a middle ground between historical designations and basic zoning regulations.

Historic districts control such elements as a structure’s height, setback, architecture and building materials. Residents seeking to make exterior home improvements are subject to the city’s Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission approval and may receive tax incentives. Historic district designation can prevent demolition of the structure.

The proposed conservation districts would control elements such as height, setback, lot coverage, lot size and driveways, but not architecture and materials. Additional optional elements controlled by a conservation district can include:

  • Building orientation
  • General site planning
  • Signage
  • Garages
  • Landscaping
  • Fences and walls
  • Entrance lighting
  • Curbs and sidewalks
  • Principle elevation features
  • Roof line and pitch.

Homeowners seeking to make exterior improvements would be subject to city staff review only, but there would be no tax incentives.

A conservation district could be initiated by a petition process, the City Council, or the Urban Design Commission with opportunities for input from the property owners.

Variances to conservation district standards would be heard by the Board of Adjustment. Property owners in a conservation district would not be prohibited from demolishing a structure and building on that site, as long as the new structure meets objective design criteria set forth for their specific conservation district.

Under city staff’s plan, a conservation district must:

  • Encompass at least one block face, but preferably an entire block.
  • Contain at least 75 percent of the lots that were improved 40 years ago and are still improved. Forty years is roughly the timeframe when properties start to be demolished and rebuilt.
  • Possess distinctive features that create a cohesive, identifiable setting or character, such as spatial relationships between buildings, lot layouts or streetscape characteristics.

The City Council is expected to conduct a public hearing and take final action on the proposed conservation district ordinance in April. In the meantime, several city commissions – Urban Design Commission, Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission, Zoning Commission, Central City Redevelopment Committee and Development Advisory Committee – will hear briefings and provide comments.


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