Establishing a Conservation District

No Giant Houses: Some Questions & Answers - July 2018

 

Q: Why do we want NO GIANT HOUSES on Our Small Lots?

A: The average Clark Park area house is 81 years old, and the vast majority are smaller than 2,000 square feet.  GIANT HOUSES change the look and feel of the neighborhood, shading other houses, affecting privacy, drainage, and the property values of smaller adjacent properties. One can live a large life in a small home by placing value on sustainability, community, history, beauty, and outdoor spaces.

Q: How can I become involved?

A: Many different ways.  For example, go to nogianthouses.com and sign up for our e-mail list to stay informed about upcoming meetings, events and volunteer opportunities.  Contact City Council members.  Sign a petition for No Giant Houses on Our Small Lots, and put a sign in your front lawn.  Inform your neighbors.

Q: The City of Champaign is proposing to let builders construct huge houses on small lots, dwarfing the existing homes in our neighborhood.  How can we exert some control?

A: One approach is to start a Conservation District.  Such a district allows neighborhood residents to define the characteristics that they value, such as open space, mature trees, adequate space between houses, consistent setbacks from the street, houses that aren’t “all garage” and front yards that are not dominated by driveways.  In order to gain City approval, any new construction or major remodeling would have to meet the stipulated values.

Q: How does a Conservation District ensure compatible development?

A: If a developer/contractor desires to tear down one of our homes and replace it, the Conservation District steps in, providing guidance to assure that the finished structure will be compatible with those on neighboring properties. The proposed addition, rebuild, or redevelopment is measured against a list of contributing factors, including size, mass, open space, architectural style, and placement of house and accessory structures on the lot.

Q: Which City officials conduct the review for a Conservation District?

A: Champaign Planning and Development (CPD) conducts the initial review and then transmits the permit application to the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).  The original application, along with any HPC recommendations, is returned to CPD for final decision.

 

 Q: What’s the difference between a Conservation District and a Historic Preservation District?

A: While the two have some similar purposes, a Conservation District has less stringent requirements and gives property owners greater flexibility.  It is sometimes referred to as “Preservation Lite.”

Q: Have other cities designated Conservation Districts?  If so, how have they turned out?

A: Yes.  Eleven studies reviewed (including Iowa City, Boulder CO, Lexington KY, and Nashville TN) have documented positive results. These include higher property values compared to similar properties located outside Conservation Districts, increased home ownership, preservation of neighborhood identity and sense of place, resident satisfaction, and reduction of demolition-and-new construction projects.

Q: Does that mean I can’t fix up my house the way I want to?

A: No.  Rules for Conservation Districts only affect a home’s exterior.  You can do whatever you choose on the interior without submitting a plan for review and exterior repairs and cosmetic changes (new roof; new paint job) are still left entirely up to the homeowner.  Only significant additions that require a building permit and that impact neighborhood sightlines and light must be reviewed.

Q: Will I be required to take any actions as a resident within the established Conservation District?

A: Not unless you plan to tear down your house, build an addition, or propose any other construction that requires a building permit.

Q: How would a owConservation District designation affect my property values and taxes?

A: Property values and taxes rise and fall together. The Clark Park neighborhood has long been one of Champaign’s most desirable areas, with property values remaining stable and even increasing over time.

Q: Is a Conservation District “subordinate” to a drainage (or other) district?

A: No, but a Conservation District would work in tandem with other municipal districts and agencies.

Q: Can a Conservation District ever be amended or abolished?  If so, by whom?

A: Yes, if an application to “rescind the nomination” is submitted to, and approved by residents and the City Council.