Hudson city leaders eye expansion of Historic District

Large majority of property owners on Elm Street, Roslyn Avenue favor special designation

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
Hudson city leaders are looking to expand the municipality's Historic District to include Elm Street and Rosyln Avenue.

HUDSON — City leaders are looking to expand the boundaries of the municipality's Historic District to include Elm Street and Roslyn Avenue after a large majority of the property owners on the roads told municipal leaders they favored such an effort.

A few years ago, a group of 25 residents submitted a petition requesting the city add Elm Street and Roslyn Avenue to the current district.

The city hosted a neighborhood meeting and conducted an online survey to find out whether residents wanted to add their neighborhoods to the Historic District, according to a city news release.

City Senior Planner Nick Sugar said the administration surveyed 86 property owners on whether they supported a historic designation of their property. Sugar presented the results of this survey to council in early March. A total of 38 (44%) responded, with 29 favoring the endeavor and nine opposing it. There was a 50% response rate from residents on Roslyn and a 58% response rate from Elm residents. This survey included residents living on East Streetsboro Street and Bradley Drive. A city staff report said Streetsboro Street was dropped from consideration due to lack of response and Bradley Drive was eliminated because the homes have newer construction dates. The focus turned to placing the 44 properties on Elm and Roslyn into a Historic District, according to Sugar.

Council members said they wanted staff to reach out to the Elm and Roslyn residents that did not respond to the survey. A letter was sent in July to those property owners encouraging them to contact Sugar about whether or not they supported placing the neighborhood into a Historic District. The letter noted city staff would walk door-to-door in the neighborhood during a week in August to obtain more feedback.

Sugar told council on Sept. 8 that he and his staff acquired responses from 40 of the 44 property owners, a 91% response rate. Eighty percent of Elm residents who responded favored the Historic District designation and 90 percent of responding Roslyn residents backed the idea.

"There were people very passionate about the effort," said Sugar.

Property owners who opposed the designation typically cited concerns about increased regulations and more review from the Architectural and Historic Review Board, according to Sugar.

There are four individually designated historic landmarks on Elm and the staff report said one of those properties did not respond to the outreach effort.

Community Development Director Greg Hannan said property owners in a Historic District would have a "higher level of comfort" knowing that a neighbor would "keep their house to a certain historic standard." He added that a lot of residents live on these streets because they have a "personal passion and desire for historical properties."

Sugar agreed, saying, "it seems like when you get a neighborhood that's really passionate about it, it's a good fit." He noted having such a district is geared toward preserving "special features" of the homes.

Hudson Mayor Craig Shubert raised some concerns. He shared a story about a city in another state that had difficulty maintaining properties when it went through tough economic times. The city could not demolish some homes that were in poor condition because the houses were designated as historic. Developers did not want to rehabilitate those homes because the "property's value was gone," said Shubert.

"I would hate to see Hudson get into a situation like that 50 or maybe 100 years from now," said Shubert. "If there's something truly, truly historic about the home or the property, that I can accept, but I think just for the sake of expansion, we need to be extremely wise about it."

Council President Bill Wooldredge (At Large) said some of the homes on Elm and Rosyln are more than 100 years old and said the potential district is what residents want.

Council member Chris Foster (Ward 2) said he's "always concerned when we take architectural review board standards and apply it because… you have a certain feature on a house and it has to do with preserving that feature, but the reality is we don't really apply our rules and regulations that way. We say there's a rule and it has to be met."

Despite that concern, Foster noted he generally favored setting up the district because it is a historic area, the process was started by residents and the "buy-in is fairly overwhelming." He noted there may be some other building materials that the city may want to consider allowing in a Historic District.

Hannan said the most common Historic District projects that would come before the city are window and siding replacement.

"Existing wood windows and wood siding would need to be maintained first," said Hannan. "If historic materials were documented to be in poor condition, then the property owner could consider replacement. For windows, the design standards would require new wood windows or high-end composite windows … For siding, the design standards would require replacement with new wood siding on the historic structure, with additions being allowed to use Hardi board or other high-quality composite materials."

For homes on Elm and Rosyln built in the 1950s and more recently, replacement of non-historic materials such as existing vinyl windows and siding are "generally permitted," said Hannan.

Next steps

To expand the Historic District, Hannan said the formal process would include expanding the National Register of Historic Districts through the National Parks Service and amending the city zoning map through the planning commission and the Architectural and Historic Review Board. Amending the zoning map would involve changing the Historic District boundary on the zoning map.

The zoning map amendment process would begin with council, who would refer it to planning commission, with public hearings being held by both bodies.

During the next several months, Hannan said, "we will be advancing consideration of expanding the national register district…This will involve fairly detailed documentation of the two streets and working with the state preservation office."

Once that process starts, work would start on the process to amend the city zoning map.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.