Janesville75°

Historic district OK’d; overlay district sent back

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Catherine W. Idzerda
July 20, 2011
— The historic district went forward.

The historic overlay district went backwards.


That’s not a bad thing—except the two were supposed to be dancing together.


At a meeting Monday, the plan commission approved a historic district for downtown Janesville, agreeing to send it forward to the city council.


Then the commission also voted to send the plan for a historic overlay district back to staff and the historic commission to review, said Kathy Voskuil, council member and plan commission chairwoman.


At issue was the ability to appeal which buildings were “contributing” and “noncontributing” to the historic character of the district. Building that were “contributing” to the historic district would be subject to remodeling guidelines.


But it’s difficult to separate the historic district from the historic overlay district.


Historic districts are actual, geographical places. In downtown Janesville, the historic districts in question include parts of east and west Milwaukee streets and parts of north and south Main streets.


A historic overlay district refers to policy concerning the historic districts and the area around them.


The proposed historic overlay district, as a policy, would have given the historic commission the “legal teeth to enforce the rules,” explained Gale Price, manager of building and development services for the city of Janesville.


An overlay district gives the historic commission more power to regulate exterior work that requires special permits. These include alterations to windows and doors, siding and new construction and demolition.


“There was a discussion about the concepts and the ideas,” Voskuil said of the two-hour meeting Monday. “We were concerned, and were looking for some way to have a happy medium.”


Eventually, the plan commission agreed, 4-2, to send the overlay district policy back to staff and the historic commission.


Voskuil voted against the motion, wondering how the historic district—the geographical space—could go forward without the historic overlay district—the policy concerning the space.


A public hearing has been set for Monday, Aug. 8. The council might decide to postpone the hearing until it receives the remaining information, Price said.



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