By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Enid’s Historic Preservation Commission is considering changes to guidelines for construction and remodeling in the Kenwood and Waverley historic districts.
The current guidelines were written in the early 1980s, about the time the commission was established. The guidelines pertain to any new construction, exterior renovation or demolition of homes and structures in the two historic districts.
The HPC met Thursday to discuss possible updates to the guidelines with consultant Brannyn McDougal, president of Gray Planning Services of Shawnee.
According to the Gray Planning Services website, the firm was “founded with the mission of providing professional planning and historic preservation assistance to communities and community organizations.”
McDougal, who also serves on the Preservation Oklahoma board, was called in to make recommendations for changes to the guidelines. McDougal also will partner with Partners for Place, a historic preservation consulting firm based in Charlottesville, Va.
McDougal said a major focus of the guideline revisions will be streamlining the process for residents of Enid’s historic districts to receive certificates of appropriateness, a prerequisite for city permits for most exterior work in the Waverley and Kenwood neighborhoods.
But, she said, the guidelines also could be updated in some ways to better protect historic structures and neighborhoods.
“We want to make the process more customer-friendly, but also make sure the city is doing its due diligence in preserving these historic neighborhoods,” McDougal said.
HPC chairman Thomas Andrew said a balance should be struck between protecting the historic integrity of the neighborhoods, and not making it too difficult for residents or prospective residents to renovate or upgrade their properties.
“We want the homes and the neighborhoods to be preserved,” Andrew said, “but if you put too many restrictions on people, you defeat your own purpose.”
Discussion Thursday focused on creating incentives for residents and owners to preserve historic properties, rather than simply increasing penalties.
“Any time you can offer an incentive instead of slapping a hand, you have a double positive,” said Becky Cummings, who represents Kenwood Historic District on the HPC.
Christine Coffman, who represents Waverley Historic District on the commission, said the guidelines need to encourage families to move into historic homes.
“One of the things we want to do is create positive incentives for families who are interested in being primary residents in our historic homes,” Coffman said. “We’re all stewards of history, and when we allow these homes to fall into disrepair we are allowing pieces of this city’s history to fall away. I think a major focus of our guidelines needs to be giving people incentives to preserve these pieces of history.”
Cummings agreed that moving families into historic homes needs to be a focus of the guidelines, and would be the best means of not only preserving Enid’s history, but of building its future.
“The more families we can get to move into our historic homes, the better those homes will be taken care of, the more people will want to live next to those homes, and then the neighborhood becomes more cohesive, crime goes down and interest in tourism goes up,” she said.
Cummings said Kenwood Historic District will share a common fate with downtown, a bond she said has existed between the two areas since Enid first was developed.
“Whatever Kenwood does to improve itself benefits downtown, and when they make improvements downtown it benefits Kenwood,” Cummings said. “Kenwood and downtown started as a whole, and they need to be treated as a whole.”
Coffman said the new guidelines also will help educate the public about Enid’s historic districts, and dispel some misconceptions about living in Kenwood and Waverley.
“One of the misleading things is, people sometimes don’t want to be a part of a historic district because they think it will be an inconvenience for them,” Coffman said.
“The ordinances for the city are the same everywhere in the city,” she said. “Really, the only difference about living in a historic district is, if you want to make a change or alteration to the outside of your house that can be seen from the street, you need to have that approved by the Historic Preservation Commission, to make sure it meets code.”
Specific changes to the city’s historic preservation guidelines have yet to take shape. The guideline review and update process is just beginning, and is expected to last as long as a year.
Whatever changes come about, Cummings and Coffman both said they are excited to have the current HPC membership paired with the consulting experience offered by McDougal.
“We have never had the qualifications she brings to the table,” Cummings said, “and I think it will be wonderful to have the ideas she will bring to Enid about how the neighborhoods and the city can work together to preserve our neighborhoods, and make things better for the whole city.”