Evaluation and Assessment of Priority Recommendations

Albemarle County Historic Preservation Committee

 

Priority Recommendation and Ordinance Evaluation Subcommittee

Approved by HPC, March 26, 2007

 

On November 1 2000, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted to have the Historic Preservation Committee develop a list of priorities for historic preservation "based on incentives and voluntary measures." The HPC responded by developing a series of twelve priority recommendations for historic preservation in Albemarle County (adopted in April 2001). The first priority recommendation, the creation a permanent Historic Preservation Committee (HPC), was officially completed in January 2002 when the new HPC met for the first time. At that initial meeting, the HPC created subcommittees to develop and pursue various measures to achieve the goals of the remaining eleven priority recommendations. Currently, the HPC has five subcommittees that include Database, Demolition, Heritage Education / Community Events, Country Stores, and Financial Incentives. To date, the HPC has accomplished the following in regard to the abovementioned priorities:

 

Priority Recommendations

 

  1. Create a permanent Historic Preservation Committee to provide assistance and advice concerning the County’s historic preservation program.

 

          The HPC was formed by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in 2001.  Committee members are volunteers selected by the County Board of Supervisors and represent a wide cross section of interests, including City and County residents, realtors, developers, and historic property owners, to professionals working in fields related to historic preservation including archaeology, architectural history, history, historic preservation. The full HPC met for the first time on January 8, 2002. From January 2002 to January 2007, Sara Lee Barnes served as the Chairperson of the ACHPC. In 2003 Julie Mahon was hired as Historic Preservation Planner to provide advice and assistance to the HPC. In January 2007, Jameson Gibson was elected Chairperson, with Garth Anderson serving as Vice-Chair.

 

            Assessment: Although the HPC was created and serves as a positively functioning committee, it is the opinion of this subcommittee that Priority Recommendation #1 could be strengthened by creating a more formal structure or channel whereby the HPC’s ‘assistance and advice’ can be sought and offered on a regular basis. This may mean the creation of a more efficient process where the Architectural Review Board, Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors can query the HPC about Historic Resource issues at a specific project level through the current Chair, and the County can receive an efficient response.

 

 


 
  1. Compile and maintain a current and comprehensive information base for Albemarle Country’s historic resources.

 

The Database Subcommittee has designed the Historic Resource Database to be a constantly growing and comprehensive information system that identifies, locates and compiles information on a broad range of historic resources. The Historic Resource Database will be compatible with the County’s GIS System and will identify resources by tax map parcel number. The Historic Preservation Planner, Julie Mahon, began to assist the subcommittee in the planning and implementation of the Historic Resource Database.

 

In 2004, Albemarle County chose City View as the program for tracking development review. Because of limited interface capacity with City View and due to the inability of available Albemarle County servers to handle the data requirements of the proposed Historic Resource Database, in late 2004 the Database Subcommittee decided to pursue the design of its own MS Access Database, to purchase its own server, and to pursue County and outside funds to accomplish these tasks. In the Spring of 2005 Julie Mahon enrolled in a course that allowed her to begin to build an MS Access Database. At the conclusion of this course, it was realized that the Database Subcommittee would need the assistance of a professional consultant to carry the initial MS Access Database design to its desired completion.

 

Assessment: The subcommittee considers Priority Recommendation #2 incomplete but ongoing. In 2006, the Department of Community Development submitted a budget which included a $60,000 request for consultant services to design the Albemarle County Historic Resource Database and integrate it with City View. Although the need for multi-year County funding is paramount, if the budget request is not funded, the Database Committee will pursue the identification of and application for private funding. The MS Access Database and its minimal interface with City View is continuing to be designed by the Database Committee.

 

  1. Institute a program whereby new owners of historic properties are notified of the significance of their property and are given instructions for obtaining additional preservation-related information concerning their historic resource.

 

In order to raise public awareness of the significance of certain historic resources in the County, an HPC subcommittee received approval from the BOS in Spring 2003 to send a letter to all new owners of historic properties informing them of the cultural importance of their property. Currently subcommittee members periodically reviews the local MLS sales listings to identify recipients of the letter and create a list of purchasers of houses that are 50 or more years old. Subcommittee members then review the list and make recommendations of recipients to County staff. The letter is then prepared and signed by the HPC chair. The letters include County staff contact information to assist in further researching their properties. The letters serve to enlighten these new owners as to the importance of their new property as an integral part of the history and overall appeal of Albemarle County. The letters also provide an overview of the HPC and its work as well as contact information.

 

Assessment: The subcommittee considers Priority Recommendation #3 complete but ongoing.  A review of the program by staff indicates that they do not receive a significant number of responses or queries for information. In nearly four years there has only been one negative response while all others have been very positive. The HPC should periodically review the content of the letter for potential updates to garner more response.

 

  1. Establish a formal definition of the term “significant historic resource” to be used in the implementation of the County’s Historic Preservation Plan.

 

Establishing a formal definition of “significant historic resource” was one of the first priorities tackled by the ACHPC. Its definition was discussed at several subcommittee and full committee meetings. On September 8, 2003 the full Committee adopted the following definition:

 

“Following the definition established by the National Register of Historic Places, a “historic resource” in Albemarle County is one with architecture, engineering, archaeological, or cultural remains present in districts, sites, buildings, or structures that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. Each site should be associated with one or more of the following historical or cultural themes:

 

A: Those that are associated with the events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history

 

B: Those that are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past

 

C: Those 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

 

D: Those that have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important to prehistory or history

 

Those themes that have been the most important to the broad patterns of Albemarle County’s history were discussed at length in a context study entitled, ‘From the Monacans to Monticello and Beyond: Prehistoric and Historic Contexts for Albemarle County, Virginia’ produced in May of 1995 by Garrow and Associates for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Historic resources in Albemarle County should be evaluated in light of—but are not limited to—these themes. Albemarle County’s historic resources are not limited to those sites identified in this historic context study; they are intended only as examples. Furthermore, the historic or cultural contexts of Albemarle County’s historic resources are not limited to any single dominant people group; they might be associated with Native Americans, enslaved and free blacks, and European settlers, including English, Scotch-Irish, and Germans, among others. Significant persons from Albemarle County’s past can range from figures of international renown such as Thomas Jefferson, to persons of local significance, such as Civil Rights activist and educator Mary Carr Greer. When considering sites that “embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction or that represent the work of a master,” the relative rarity of the example should be a factor that warrants particular consideration. Rarity can be associated with, but not limited to: period, as in the Queen Anne style President’s House for the Alberene Soapstone Company; type, as in the African-American Mont Alto schoolhouse; or method of construction, as in the timber frame and nogged dairy/smokehouse of Cloverfields Plantation. For further direction on interpreting the above criteria at the local level, see the National Register Criteria for Evaluation (Bulletin 15).”

 

Assessment: The subcommittee considers Priority Recommendation #4 complete.

 

  1. In the event the demolition of a significant historic resource must occur, thoroughly document the resource prior to demolition.  Also encourage documentation prior to major adaptive reuse or renovation whenever possible.

 

The HPC has over the past five years endeavored to record threatened historic structures along a scale ranging from simple street-side photography to intensive photography of landscapes, exteriors, interiors, and details and the production of measured drawings--plans, elevations, sections, and details--generated to the standards of the Historic American Building Survey. While volunteers have sufficiently fulfilled the simpler recordation, teams of students from the University of Virginia under the direction of UVA faculty member and committee member Louis Nelson have completed the more intensive recording as part of preservation curriculum in the School of Architecture. Over the past five years, UVA students have recorded 1) a collection of the County's country stores, 2) the Cismont School, 3) the Oakleigh Farm complex (now largely demolished for new development), and 4) the agricultural buildings behind the now burned Wilton Farm. In each case, the students generated a complete set of drawings, a statement of significance, and a set of documentary photography that was submitted to the Library of Congress as part of the Historic American Building Survey collection. These efforts expand upon the consistent photography of historic properties 50 years or older by County staff, student interns, and members of the HPC.

 

Assessment: The subcommittee considers Priority Recommendation #5 complete but ongoing. With the support from UVA, the HPC has recorded the most significant of our threatened buildings, but such recording programs are dependent on the inconsistent course offerings of the School of Architecture and the availability of County staff and volunteers. If annual funds were received from the County, two part-time students could be hired whose work would be dedicated to recording threatened buildings. As a result many more threatened buildings could be recorded prior to their demolition.

       

  1. Promote and encourage preservation by making available information regarding state and national register designation procedures, tax incentives, historic and conservation easements, and other voluntary preservation measures.

 

This subcommittee has assembled various pamphlets and brochures and compiled a list of web sites for distribution that provide information on voluntary preservation measures. The Historic Preservation Planner uses this information in responding to historic preservation inquiries. The Demolition and Heritage Education Subcommittees are currently working together to expand and update this material. The subcommittee has also drafted a "Guide to Identifying and Preserving Historic Properties and Sites" to provide information to local property owners on how to preserve, renovate, and /or restore historic properties as well as the various state and federal tax incentives for historic preservation. This guide is slated for completion in Spring 2007. The subcommittee also has completed a brochure for new owners of historic properties entitled: "Most Frequently asked Questions about Historic Properties," to send to interested parties.  The brochure has not yet been printed.

 

The HPC has also worked with the University of Virginia and University of Virginia Foundation to promote and encourage the preservation of historically significant properties held in the County including the Blue Ridge Hospital complex and the Sutherland farm.

 

Assessment: The subcommittee considers Priority Recommendation #6 complete but ongoing. While many informational brochures and pamphlets are available, there is currently no successful means of widely distributing this information to the public. It is the recommendation of this subcommittee that obtaining County funding for printing hard copies and the posting of all brochures and pamphlets on a devoted HPC web page would satisfy this Priority Recommendation.

 

  1. Foster community pride, good citizenship, and stewardship of the County’s historic resources through heritage education programs, beginning with the creation of educational/information brochures on various County historic preservation issues, including state and national register listing, tax incentives, County policy, etc.

 

The Heritage Education and Community Event subcommittee has succeeded in organizing several educational programs that promote public awareness and appreciation of the County's historic resources and the various threats to their survival. In May, 2005, the subcommittee, with the support of other local preservation groups and the Albemarle County-Charlottesville Historical Society, arranged for Dr. Barbara Heath to present a paper on the commercial activities of slaves and local white merchants in central Virginia in celebration of Historic Preservation month. In addition, the HPC has initiated a partnership with the local chapter of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities to begin offering monthly symposiums on the care and maintenance of old homes. The HPC is also planning to offer a course on tax incentives for owners of historic homes to be taught by Committee members.

 

Assessment: The subcommittee considers Priority Recommendation #7 complete but ongoing. The subcommittee also recommends that annual funding of the Heritage Education and Community Events subcommittee would further the ability of the HPC to attract speakers and coordinate and host heritage education programs.

 

  1. The Historic Preservation Committee should work with other organizations to initiate and implement community events for Albemarle County that recognize our historic resources. These events should be coordinated with other statewide heritage tourism activities and National Preservation Week.

 

The Heritage Education and Community Event subcommittee has been extremely successful in recognizing and raising awareness of Albemarle County’s historic resources. In 2004 the HPC partnered with the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors and Real Estate Weekly and published ‘Barn Again’ an article celebrating historic barns and an agricultural heritage. In 2005, the subcommittee created a Country Store exhibit that focused on their importance in local business and social life. The exhibit was well-attended and displayed at several public locations following the presentation. Photographs and research compiled by the HPC are being used to create a permanent web site on Country Stores through the Historical Society. Recently the Planning Commission adopted a resolution intent for a Country Stores ZTA. A staff Country Stores ZTA Committee is now studying issues of tax abatements in support for renovation of these historic resources. In May 2006, the subcommittee spearheaded another public exhibit and presentation on the history of Rosenwald schools in Albemarle County. The program, which included papers presented by Craig Burton, Scott French, and Jackie Taylor, focused on the importance of these schools for the education of rural African-Americans during segregation. The program also included historic photographs and a windshield survey of the schools in Albemarle County compiled by members of the subcommittee.

 

Assessment: The subcommittee considers Priority Recommendation #8 complete but ongoing. The HPC is now one of several organizations attending regular Charlottesville Albemarle Preservation Alliance (CAPA) meetings, a regional organization of preservation minded public and private entities devoted to promoting preservation education and values. The subcommittee also recommends that appropriation of annual funds for the HPC would further the ability of the Heritage Education and Community Events subcommittee to attract speakers and coordinate and host programs that focus on our County’s diverse and significant historic resources.

 


 
  1. To help protect the Monticello viewshed, adopt a more formalized procedure that begins early in the planning process to encourage cooperation between the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and developers of property within the viewshed.

 

This recommendation, regarding the Monticello viewshed, was addressed by the Database subcommittee and full HPC in the Spring of 2004. The Committee questioned the equity of singling out one viewshed and discussed the possibility of expanding the work item to include consideration of additional significant historic viewsheds throughout the County. On April 26, 2004, the Committee voted to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the wording of Priority Recommendation #9 be revised as follows:

 

Proposed language: Identify significant publicly accessible viewsheds in the County associated with a historic resource or a theme central to the history of the County. Develop recommendations on the treatment of those viewsheds.

 

The Committee believes that this change is important because the Monticello viewshed is only one of the significant viewsheds in the County. While Monticello is a unique resource, its significance does not diminish the importance of other viewsheds. Such viewsheds contribute greatly to the existing character of the County. They are a significant contributing factor to the high quality of life that County residents enjoy, and they are a notable component of our economy as tourist attractions. Furthermore, the Committee has acknowledged that since the Historic Preservation Plan was adopted, the County’s development departments have consistently been notifying developers when their projects fall within the Monticello viewshed and recommending that the developers contact Monticello directly to discuss the potential impacts of their proposals. Consequently, the Committee plans no further specific measures to address the Monticello viewshed.

 

The 2005 Resolution of Intent adopted by the BOS to amend the Historic Preservation Plan and the Comprehensive plan included this change to the Monticello Viewshed recommendation.

 

Assessment: The subcommittee considers Priority Recommendation #9 incomplete. No additional work on this Priority recommendation has occurred since the approval of this resolution by the BOS in late 2005.

 

  1. Be prepared to take advantage of resources, as they become available, to assist in the implementation of the County’s historic preservation plan.

 

The HPC is prepared to take advantage of resources, such as public monies, private grants and educational sessions, as they are made available. The HPC also makes recommendations to the County on historic resource funding when committee input is requested. Individual committee members are aware of state-level resources such as the Department of Historic Resources Cost-Share program and other public programs and provide professional advice to the Historic Preservation Planner when requested. In the past, Albemarle County has taken advantage of DHR Cost-Share funds to carry out an update of a survey of 70 historic resources in the Woolen Mills vicinity and Places 29 project area. In addition, a DHR Cost-Share survey will be initiated this year on surveying approximately 270 properties in downtown Crozet that will inform development strategies and integrate them with preservation goals.

 

Assessment: The subcommittee considers Priority Recommendation #10 complete but ongoing.

 

  1. Continue to pursue the implementation of financial incentives for historic preservation, including the establishment of a revolving loan fund and the requisite enabling legislation.

 

In 2003, Sally Thomas of the Board of Supervisors, brought a proposal before the State Legislature seeking enabling legislation to establish a revolving loan fund to provide financial aid and incentives for renovation and restoration of historic properties in Albemarle County. The proposal was defeated by the bankers' lobby, which argued that such a program was appropriately handled by a regulated bank and not a County government. In late 2003, the Financial Incentives Committee attempted to negotiate a compromise with the bankers’ lobby. This attempt failed. In December of 2004, the subcommittee recommended that the County should fund a grant program for historic preservation projects, but this proposal failed to gain approval from the full HPC. In 2005, the subcommittee recommended that a fund be established at the Charlottesville Albemarle Community Foundation, started by seed money from the County and relying on private funding, to support historic preservation. This proposal failed to gain approval from the full HPC.

 

Assessment: The subcommittee considers Priority Recommendation #11 as complete but ongoing.

 

  1. Two years after the adoption of these recommendations, evaluate the County’s progress on these preservation priorities, and evaluate the need for a historic overlay ordinance.

 

Six years after adopting these recommendations, in November of 2006 the Priority Recommendation and Ordinance Evaluation subcommittee of the HPC was formed to evaluate the HPC’s and, by extension, the County’s progress with the Priority Recommendations. This subcommittee prepared this document and it serves as a preliminary assessment of our progress.

 

The Priority Recommendation and Ordinance Evaluation subcommittee intends to evaluate the need for an historic overlay ordinance in its upcoming meetings in March and April of 2007. Recommendations extending from these meetings will be presented to the HPC and opened for discussion. [Staff note: This discussion has not taken place as of mid-May 2007.]

 


 

Priority Recommendation and Ordinance Evaluation Subcommittee

General Recommendations

 

After evaluating the Priority Recommendations, the Priority Recommendation and Ordinance Evaluation subcommittee felt strongly that the following recommendations be made to the HPC.

 

1.                  This subcommittee recommends that the HPC adopt this document, with any associated revisions, at its full March 2007 meeting.

 

2.                  This subcommittee recommends that the HPC continue to fill vacated appointments that will allow the committee to operate at an acceptable level.

 

3.                  This subcommittee recommends that the HPC immediately request that the existing web page on Albemarle County’s site (www.albemarle.org) be improved to include expanded information about the HPC, its subcommittees, its work and accomplishments. In addition to furthering the cause of Historic Preservation in Albemarle County, an HPC web page would enhance the ability of several subcommittees to carry out the dissemination of important information, including brochures, pamphlets, and links to other preservation related websites

 

4.                  This subcommittee recommends that the HPC initiate an annual line item request for funds, above and beyond the current budget request, that will meet the various subcommittee needs in carrying out the Priority Recommendations. While it is acknowledged that funds are sometimes available from Albemarle County for small requests, an annual budget with a known amount of money will allow the HPC to more effectively plan and carry out the realization of proposed projects and the overall success of subcommittees.

 

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