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Knowing the Rules of Houston Historical Preservation Appeals

Knowing the Rules of Houston Historical Preservation Appeals

Purchasing a house with the desire to renovate it or planning a renovation of a house you already own can be one of the most stressful, not to mention expensive, experiences that a property owner may undertake.

This process can be even more daunting if you live in one of Houston’s 22 designated historic districts.

The 22 historic districts contain thousands of properties identified as either contributing structures or non-contributing structures. If a property is classified as a contributing structure, then in most cases, a certificate of appropriateness must be granted by the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission (HAHC) prior to any relocation, demolition, or exterior alteration of the structure. Even changing out original windows requires the approval of the HAHC.

If a property is classified as a non-contributing structure, the City may require approval before certain work can be performed.

The City recently revised its Historic Preservation Ordinance. If a property owner seeks a certificate of appropriateness and is denied, the owner may appeal such denial to the City’s Historic Preservation Appeals Board. If the owner is denied a certificate of appropriateness by the appeals board, then the owner may appeal such denial to the entire city council. The appeals process can be technical and there are timelines and procedures that must be followed or else an appeal will not be heard.

This new structure in the historic Houston Heights was granted approval on appeal to build three stories.

This new structure in the historic Houston Heights was granted approval on appeal to build three stories.

Randle Law Office has significant experience representing property owners in obtaining a certificate of appropriateness on appeal.

The firm has handled the following:

  • Successfully represented a property owner on appeal secure a certificate of appropriateness to move a house on the same property and alter the house to make it larger.
  • Successfully represented a property owner on appeal secure a certificate of appropriateness to build a three-story mixed-use development on Yale Street when the City said no more than two-stories was allowed.
  • Successfully represented a property owner on appeal secure a certificate of appropriateness to demolish an old gas station and duplex in order to remediate environmental issues and allow for the building of a single-family home.
  • Successfully represented a property owner on appeal to secure a certificate of appropriateness to move a house that was not original to the historic district out of the district in order to build a new single-family home.

As attorneys that represent municipalities, we are intimately familiar with what municipalities can and cannot regulate and the processes that must be followed. And as a former practicing historian, I understand the needed balance between property rights and protecting and preserving the City’s history.

Timothy Kirwin is a Senior Attorney with the Randle Law Office in Houston. A native of Houston, Mr. Kirwin previously worked as Assistant Curator at the Houston Fire Museum and an Archivist at Baylor College of Medicine. After receiving his J.D. from the University of Houston, Mr. Kirwin has practiced in various areas of municipal law, first as an assistant city attorney in Missouri City, Texas, and since joining the Randle Law Office, serving as a municipal prosecutor or city attorney for multiple cities. He is also Associate Municipal Court Judge for the city of Hedwig Village.

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