Housing Complex

All Historic Preservation Districts are Not Created Equal!

That's basically Barney Circle.

That's basically Barney Circle.

For as long as historic preservation districts have existed, once you got designated, you had to abide by the same set of rules as everyone else: The same regulations apply to buildings in Capitol Hill and Dupont, Georgetown and Shaw. The rules are somewhat general, and sometimes create more questions than they answer.

No longer. Last night, historic preservation officials came to present draft guidelines for the proposed Barney Circle historic district in east Capitol Hill to ANC 6B. This set of regs was tailored to the tiny neighborhood, specifying how exactly the 192 houses in the area bounded by Kentucky Avenue, Potomac Avenue, Congressional Cemetery, and Barney Circle itself are to be preserved. The 12-page document details how everything from porch railings to slate roofs are to be preserved, considering the rowhouse design specific to the area.

Deputy Historic Preservation Director Steve Callcott told Housing Complex later that the idea behind neighborhood-by-neighborhood guidelines is twofold: one, to create web-based modules that are easy to peruse online; and two, to help residents understand exactly what they’re getting.

“People will be able to see something in written form,” said Calcott. “They will have a commitment in writing as to what HD is going to mean, and it’s not some amorphous thing.” The office first tried it with Foxhall, another architecturally homogenous neighborhood in Ward 3, and hope to eventually write plans for other districts—though one for a huge and diverse district like Capitol Hill might be more difficult.

Which doesn’t mean that designating Barney Circle as historic will be easy. A couple of residents and one ANC commissioner  asked whether there would be some sort of community vote on the issue, especially considering that two of the people originally spearheading the designation no longer live in the area (though the ANC sponsored Barney Circle's nomination in 2007). While there is no provision for a vote, Calcott emphasized in the meeting, the Historic Preservation Review Board takes ANC input into account when it makes its final decision.

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