WILLIAMSBURG — New city design guidelines could mean new paint colors for houses and more flexibility when renovating homes that aren’t considered historic.
The proposed updated guidelines were presented Monday during a joint session between Williamsburg City Council and the Architectural Review Board.
Back in February 2020, city staff began working on updating the guidelines after council members said they had concerns they wanted the Architectural Review Board to address. The concerns included affordability, materials being used for historic vs. non-historic buildings, demolition, colors, the perception of the Architectural Review Board in the city and defining contributing vs. noncontributing buildings.
By making an effort to loosen the guidelines, the council believed that homes would become more affordable and homeownership would increase.
“If we don’t protect the homes that we have, we’ll never have 100-year-old houses in the city, and I think it’s important that we take care of these buildings as they get older and preserve them,” city Mayor Doug Pons said.
The guidelines are designed to “enhance the quality of life for all by preserving the character and desirable aesthetic features of the (city) ensuring that new development is compatible,” as stated in the presentation given by Tevya Griffin, the city’s planning and codes compliance director.
“I think we all know that Williamsburg is very special,” Griffin said.
Research found that the cost of purchasing a home in the Architectural Protection Districts, where the average cost of a home is $651,580 and the average cost of land is $323,316.67, is higher than many can afford.
Griffin suggested that the city utilize its Certified Local Government status to open up funding with grants for rehabilitation of buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places that are publicly owned or are privately owned and selected through a local grant competition.
The proposed new guidelines also differentiates between contributing and noncontributing structures, with noncontributing properties given more flexible guidelines.
A contributing property is defined as a building, object or structure that adds to the historical integrity or architectural qualities that make the historic district significant. In 2021, city staff updated the list designating contributing and noncontributing properties, and an applicant can also appeal their designation.
Within the proposed guidelines, properties listed as noncontributing can use materials approved for new construction. There are also more stringent guidelines regarding windows for existing contributing structures, which must use wood windows for restoration or replacement.
Regarding concerns about the allowed color palette being too restricted, the proposed guidelines added 11 additional paint colors for use in all districts. Additionally, the entire Colonial Williamsburg Benjamin Moore color palette can be used for signs.
After the presentation, council member Ted Maslin brought up a concern about whether houses that are currently considered noncontributing could one day become contributing by virtue of getting older and how that might affect any previous repairs and updates done to the structure.
Currently, there are four Architectural Preservation and Protection Districts, including the AP-1 district, the AP-2 district, the AP-3 district and the Corridor Protection district.
Next, there will be several public hearings, including with the Architectural Review Board, the Planning Commission and City Council.
In other business, City Manager Andrew Trivette mentioned that there will be a pair of public hearings during Thursday’s council meeting, one regarding allowing additional units to be converted to affordable housing and one to do with a provision of a text change to allow a hookah lounge.
Sian Wilkerson, firstname.lastname@example.org, 757-342-6616