The Urbana Historic Preservation Commission was formed in 1998 with the responsibility of reviewing nomination requests for landmarks and districts as well as to promote historic preservation throughout the community. According to the ordinance, once a nomination is submitted, the Commission is responsible for making a “preliminary determination” as to whether or not the property has significant merit for preservation. If it is determined that it does, a hearing is conducted to decided whether or not it should be designated. Most decisions of the Commission are in the form of a recommendation to the full Urbana City Council who makes the ultimate decision on designation. The Historic Preservation Commission is also responsible for reviewing requests to significantly alter the exterior of designated landmarks. Certificates of Appropriateness are considered by the Commission and approved when it is shown that the alteration is consistent with the character and design of the original structure. Minor alterations can be approved by the Urbana Zoning Administrator without a hearing from the Historic Preservation Commission.
The Commission has also been instrumental in organizing educational and outreach events. In the fall of 2000 the Commission hosted a walking tour of historic West Main Street. Each Commissioner was tasked with learning about the history and architecture of a specific segment of the corridor and then responsible for presenting it to the participants of the tours. The Commission has also sponsored a House History Research Workshop where over 65 residents came out to the Urbana Library Archives to learn about all the resources available to learn the history of their house. These outreach efforts are done in hopes that more property owners will consider nominating their historic properties as landmarks.
Role of the Commission
The Historic Preservation Preservation Commission’s overall mission is to protect and save historically significant buildings and structures. This mission is realized by the implementation of the City’s historic preservation plan and ordinance. This includes the evaluation and recommendation of nominations for historic landmark structures and districts, the review of proposed work to a designated district and carrying out a survey and inventory system.
The Preservation Commission serves as an advisory body to the City Council for the designation of historic districts and historic landmarks that were not nominated by the owner. The Commission has the authority to grant or deny proposed construction and rehabilitation projects for designated properties.
Relationship to Staff
The Mayor appoints the Preservation Commission, which is a separate entity from staff. Staff advises and supports the Commission and carries out such tasks as assisting with surveys and preparing recommendations on nominations. Staff takes minutes of Commission meetings; provides administrative and technical assistance to the Commission regarding historic nominations; publishes and distributes copies of meeting minutes, reports and decisions of the preservation commission; gives notice of public hearings in accordance with the open meetings act and the local zoning ordinance; advises the Mayor of vacancies; and prepares and submits a complete record of the proceedings of the Preservation Commission to the City Council. Staff has no vote.
Duties of Historic Preservation Commission
According to the Urbana Zoning Ordinance, the Preservation Commission’s duties are:
Hold public hearings to evaluate nominations for historic designations and forward recommendations and findings to the City Council.
Hold public hearings to review applications to perform work on designated landmarks or properties located in a designated district to determine whether or not to issue a certificate of appropriateness or a certificate of economic hardship to permit such work to be performed. Such work may include review of proposed demolition, relocation, rehabilitation, alteration or new construction.
Facilitate surveys of a given set of buildings. The surveys may prove useful to the Commission when a structure or district is nominated.
Keep a register of all designated buildings, structures, sites, objects and districts. (Staff will keep this register under the direction of the Commission.)
Review and comment on requests for zoning amendments, special use permits, conditional use permits, mixed office residential provisions, and zoning variances for properties contiguous to or separated only by public right-of-way from designated landmarks and historic districts. The Zoning Administrator sends notification to the Commission for comment prior to the date of the Plan Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals or City Council hearing.
Testify before all boards and commissions including the Building Safety Code Board of Appeals, the Community Development Commission, the Plan Commission, the Property Maintenance Code Board of Appeals, and the Board of Zoning Appeals on any matter affecting historically significant buildings, structures, sites, objects and areas. The Chair or the chair’s designee shall give such testimony. The chair and designated staff members are placed on mailings list to become informed of public hearings involving historically significant sites.