Proposed H1 Historic Overlay Ashland Park, Lexington 1.22.2013

Proposed H1 Historic Overlay Ashland Park, Lexington 1.22.2013

Architect Graham Pohl

A special LFUCG council hearing was held on January 22, 2013, which included a second reading to the proposed H1 historic zone change ordinance for Lexington’s Ashland Park neighborhood:

“Ordinance Number 1: an ordinance creating an historic district H1 overlay zone for approximately 37.85 net approximately 51.14 gross acres for properties located at 106 thru 346 Desha Road; 977 thru 1024 Fincastle Road; 1003 thru 1058 Fontaine Road; 100 thru 314 S. Hanover Avenue; 807, 853, and 859 East High Street; 908, 912, and 1000 Richmond Road; 1003 -1015 Slashes Road, Urban County Planning Commission, Council District 5.”

Attorneys present: the petitioner’s attorney, Bo Fugazzi, and opponent’s attorney, Steven Vicroy (who said after suggestions of editorializing were made prior to summations, “with all due respect, I’ll have to admit Bo’s probably right. Most of what I said, that wasn’t fact, was editorializing, I got hired yesterday. Give me a break.”)

Bill Sallee, Planning Manager for Planning Services, presented the Planning Commission’s recommendation.

The proposed area’s architecture includes Colonial Revival, craftsman, bungalow,  American Foursquare, Tudor Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, Italian Renaissance, French Eclectic, International, and new construction.

Architect Graham Pohl

Architect Graham Pohl, who lives in the neighborhood and owns rental property there, provided testimony:

“My first exposure [to H1 zoning] was as an architect, shepherding clients’ projects through the review process. I have represented numerous clients in historic districts overseeing projects from beginning to completion. At first I found the requirements annoying. I felt that they were interfering with my creative freedom and that they added layers of difficulty to my clients in their efforts to get permits. As I became more familiar with the guidelines and the review process, my attitude changed. I began to recognize that the guidelines were actually quite brilliant. They allow for a wide range of possible solutions to any given problem, and I also learned that the historic preservation staff can be a wonderful resource… They’re free, they’re trained and they’re knowledgeable…Any good designer will tell you that constraints are fundamental to good design. For the most part, the H1 constraints are easy to understand and at times they can be truly inspirational. This neighborhood represents an extraordinary heritage and it’s profoundly worthy of the little extra effort required to meet H1 requirements. I’m now serving on the B.O.A.R. [Board of Architectural Review] so I’ve actually gone from skeptical supplicant on this side of the podium to the dark side sitting up in your chairs. So I now have a much deeper understanding of the guidelines and the process. I’m even more supportive than I was prior to serving…Taken as a whole the process is incredibly good for our community, our culture, our history, and our legacy. I strongly urge you to support the change.”

During public comment, former mayor Foster Pettit, who lives on Second, adjacent to Lexington’s first historic overlay, Gratz Park, said:

former Lexington mayor Foster Pettit

“I grew up on South Ashland Avenue in two houses, somewhat a long time ago. My grandmother lived on DeSha Road…My mother lived in Hanover Towers for 25 years. But this was my playground with Joe Graves… I went to Morton Junior High School and rode my bicycle out there. One of the things I think you need to remember about the architecture: many of these places have front porches. You don’t find front porches much anymore. It was a neighborhood where you faced people from your front porch. It was a special neighborhood. … The Thomas Hunt house was built in 1794. It was where Henry Clay married Lucretia Hart. It was a very lovely house, and it was torn down for a parking lot, and I look out my front porch [on Second] I see that parking lot. Now, that’s an extreme example. But that’s what started the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation… I want you to know this is a very unique neighborhood in our community, that has much history, and ought to be preserved.” [He was referring to the demolition of the Thomas Hart House, at the corner of Mill and Second.]

Kate Savage, representing Columbia Heights Neighborhood Association, offered slides and testimony from Columbia Heights/Hollywood neighborhood as a cautionary tale of vinyl box additions and paved yards: “Six years ago we were here applying for our own H1 overlay. We were not successful.”

Linda Carroll, president of the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation, said, “I want to call your attention to what Gratz Park looked like in 1958. Those properties were well, well past the hundred year mark. And what you’re dealing with here tonight is an opportunity to be proactive with a neighborhood that is for the most part under a hundred years. So you get a chance to get in front of protection for these properties….We leave you with the Trust calling for you to …make this the fifteenth historic district for our community.”

Her husband John Morgan spoke next, “Historic preservation is not just preservation of Lexington’s character, but also its identity, its uniqueness, its integrity, and its liveability.” (The two have been instrumental in re-developing and reclaiming East Third Street.)

Frank Harris spoke against H1, “I don’t live in this neighborhood. This does not affect me directly, but it does not affect me indirectly. The loss of freedom that do not want this to happen is offensive to me.”

CM Julian Beard later questioned whether the pro H1 group had perhaps over-counted the occupants of Hanover Towers (who would not be impacted), and whether the boundaries were drawn too narrowly to actually call itself an Ashland Park overlay.

After hours of debate, and numerous requests for clarification from the Council members, the proposal passed 11 to 1, just before 11 pm.  At an earlier meeting, Council members Bill Farmer and Kevin Stinnett, along with Mayor Jim Gray noted that they would recuse themselves from the evening’s voting and deliberations. Vice Mayor Linda Gorton chaired the hearing.