Oxford Historic Preservation Commission is getting tough on residential demolitions

Published 9:40 am Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Members of the Oxford Historic Preservation Commission on Monday discussed ideas on how to change the city’s demolition rules for homes inside the historic district to prevent property owners from tearing down houses and selling off lots.

Currently, the ordinance requires a property owner to submit either plans to rebuild a house along with a request for demolition, or a landscaping plan; however, if a landscaping plan is approved, the property owner cannot rebuild for 48 months.

However, some property owners have found a way to avoid the expense of landscaping a lot after gaining approval to demolish a home by presenting plans to the commission and getting a Certificate of Appropriateness approved, and then slap a “For Sale” sign on the lot instead of building the home.

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The other challenge is determining if leaving lots open for 48 months is really in the best interest of the neighborhood. Some homeowners may fully intend to rebuild a home on the lot but may not have the architectural plans completed by the time their case comes up on the agenda.

City Planner Judy Daniel offered a suggestion to require the demolition permit be issued only once building permits are obtained.

“You could require that once someone gets approval to demolish and their plans for reconstruction are approved, they have 30, 60 days to start building,” Daniel said, “or whatever time frame you feel is appropriate.”

Some commissioners suggested 30 days but others said that wasn’t enough time as some people don’t invest in expensive architectural plans until they gain approval for the demolition, and that 60 days would be more appropriate.

HPC is the residential district surrounding downtown Oxford. Earlier this month, Daniel discussed the same ordinance change with the Courthouse Square Preservation Commission, which deals mostly with the businesses around the Square.

Daniel said she would work on wording for the ordinance change to present to both commissions at their next meetings.

In other business Monday, the HPC:

•Approved the COA for a gate at 1001 Jefferson Ave.

•Approved railings for steps at 1203 South Lamar Blvd.

•Approved a COA for additional rooms and porches at 515 N. 14th St.

•Approved a 15-inch brick retaining wall at 1503 Jefferson Ave.