Proposal would limit power of Georgetown’s Historic and Architectural Review Commission

Georgetown City Hall at 113 E. Eighth St., Georgetown.

Georgetown City Hall at 113 E. Eighth St., Georgetown.

One of the historic review board’s primary duties—granting certificates of appropriateness for alterations to historic structures in Georgetown—could shift to City Council should a proposal Tuesday from Council Member Kevin Pitts receive enough support.

Council members voted, 5-2, to have the city attorney draft an ordinance to change bylaws of the city’s Historic and Architectural Review Commission, or HARC. Rather than grant certificates, the commission would make recommendations to City Council, which would have final say. Council members Anna Eby and Rachael Jonrowe voted against the proposal.

Should an ordinance move forward, a council vote would likely happen in late fall.

Reading a statement from the dais Tuesday, Pitts argued that decisions over certificates should be made by City Council in order for Georgetown to provide consistency and faster responses to property owners who apply to make changes to historical structures in the city’s center.

“With my suggested changes I believe downtown will continue to be the good place to do business that it is today and the city of Georgetown will be easier to do business with,” Pitts said.

His original proposal sought to have certificates of appropriateness removed entirely from HARC and instead handled by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. A motion on the original proposal was amended by Council Member Valerie Nicholson before she and Pitts joined council members Steve Fought, Tommy Gonzalez and John Hesser in support.

Council members also asked City Manager David Morgan to prepare a council workshop on the potential new ordiance. Morgan said city staff would need until at least October to prepare.

Over the course of about two hours Tuesday, council members heard from more than 20 speakers opposed to the changes.

Linda McCalla, who previously served as Georgetown’s first Main Street Manager, said HARC has served the city well since downtown revival efforts began in the early ‘80s.

“We have a 37-year legacy of historic preservation here in Georgetown,” McCalla said.

Michael Walton, president of Preservation Georgetown, which offers grants for historic rehab projects, said HARC has been critical to preserving the city’s historic buildings. Walton said rather than bypass HARC, the council should identify specific changes that could improve the commission’s work.

HARC’s seven appointed members—the commission also includes two appointed at-large members—meet monthly to consider policy related to historic preservation and design review in the city. In addition to granting certificates of appropriateness, the commission makes recommendations to City Council on designations for historic landmarks and historic overlay districts, among other duties.

Certificates of appropriateness are required when owners of historic properties want to undertake renovations or demolitions.

Although HARC grants certificates, applicants can appeal denials to City Council, which requires at least five votes to overturn the commission, according to city code.

Earlier during Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted, 5-2, to overrule a previous HARC decision to deny a certificate of appropriateness for demolition and renovation work on a proposed event venue at 511 S. Main St., Georgetown, known as the Wish Well House. Eby and Jonrowe voted against the decision.

Prior to voting on Pitts’ proposal, council members debated the proposed changes. Jonrowe and Pitts sparred over the need for removing authority over the certificates from HARC, with Jonrowe arguing that the commission’s decisions have rarely sparked appeals over the past three years.

Eby said she did not see rationale for changing the commission’s bylaws.

“Nothing has been identified that’s wrong with HARC (or) that’s wrong with the process,” Eby said.

Fought said he thought the proposal was worth consideration.

“I think [Pitts’] proposal is worth fleshing out. … I want to see what the city attorney comes back with,” Fought said.

Georgetown’s most recent historic resource survey, which was adopted by council members in August 2017, included 1,677 properties in the city’s historic areas.


MOST RECENT

Wayback Burgers makes cooked-to-order burgers and hand-dipped milkshakes. (Courtesy Wayback Burgers)
6 eateries open or coming to Cedar Park, Leander; Trudy's North Star reopens in Northwest Austin and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area, including Tiff's Treats opening in Hutto.

student writing on paper
Texas Legislature allows parents to opt for students to repeat grade levels or courses

Senate Bill 1697 is effective for the 2021-22 school year.

At Blue Gecko, a Texas Taco comes with seasoned ground beef, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese and bacon. (Courtesy Blue Gecko)
New taco spot opens in Four Points; roadwork for Austin's Zilker Eagle continues and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area, including news on when Lou Neff Road will open in Central Austin.

TheraWave Vibrant Wellness is located at 1616 Williams Drive, Ste. 107, Georgetown. (Courtesy TheraWave Vibrant Wellness)
TheraWave Vibrant Wellness now open in Georgetown

The business is focused on offering pulsed electro-magnetic frequency therapy.

Williamson County data shows there are only 2% of intensive care unit beds available for coronavirus hospitalizations. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Williamson County drops to 13 available ICU beds as coronavirus cases climb

County data shows there are only 2% of intensive care unit beds available for coronavirus hospitalizations.

The Oaks at Slaughter development will have several new businesses opening by the end of 2021. (Deeda Lovett/Community Impact Newspaper)
Shopping coming to Congress Ave.; Pflugerville preps tract near Living Spaces and more top Central Texas news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area, including news on four businesses coming to Hutto.

Public schools cannot require students, teachers, parents, and other staff members or visitors to wear masks after June 4, Gov. Greg Abbott declared in an executive order issued May 18. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Leander ISD 'highly recommends' masks; tax-free weekend tips and more Austin-area news

Read the latest business and education news from the Central Texas area.

School supplies will be exempt from the 8.25% sales tax Aug. 6-8. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
What to know before the statewide tax-free weekend Aug. 6-8

Customers will not have to pay the standard 8.25% sales tax on select clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks under $100.

Baylor Scott & White Pflugerville
Ascension, Baylor Scott & White to require all employees be fully vaccinated against coronavirus by fall

Ascension and Baylor Scott & White have announced all eligible employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the coming months. 

Wise Owls Initiative collects and delivers handmade greeting cards to seniors at several long-term care facilities. (Courtesy Wise Owls Initiative)
Cedar Park nonprofit works to fight negative effects of isolation on seniors

The nonprofit partners with long-term care facilities in Williamson County to connect with elderly residents.

Georgetown City Council will hear the final proposed budget Aug. 10. (Fernanda Figueroa/Community Impact Newspaper)
Georgetown considering $90.4M budget, prepares for growth

The budget draft includes sales tax revenues totaling $23.9 million, and the city plans to add about 51 new positions.