-by Historic Preservation Advocate Nancy Kotting

Posted Sept. 6, 2018

Nobody cares more about the integrity of German Village than our residents. Nearly one hundred of you dressed up and showed up to support preservation last night! Numbers do matter!

At last nights GVC meeting, the Commission voted to recommend a modified application for a change of use for parcels included in a proposed development located at 247-281 E. Livingston Avenue.  Agenda item No. 11 called for the Commission to vote to recommend a total of nine variance requests submitted as part of the proposed residential development. The application was presented by Attorney Donald Plank and architect George Berardi on behalf of owner Toula Management, LLC; 281 Livingston, LLC and 277 Livingston, LLC. You may find them HERE. The site plan can be viewed HERE.

The Commission was charged with evaluating all nine requests and then voting to recommend, or not recommend. The resulting vote then follows the application as it proceeds through the variance request process toward approval by, in this case, City Council.

The German Village Society, responding to strong resident engagement on this issue, worked to educate residents, guide targeted advocacy efforts, and coordinate public input in preparation for the application review yesterday.

Following the applicants’ comments and some discussion amongst Commissioners, Chair Anthony Hartke opened the floor for public comment. Over a dozen speakers then presented supporting material and personal experience as residents with property in proximity to the proposed development. The vast majority of speakers tactfully addressed the issues presented by the variance requests utilizing the very same standards required of the applicant in filing the request. These standards are known as the ‘Duncan Standards’.

Following the close of public comment, the applicant responded to additional Commission concerns with much discussion centered on the change of use being requested. The site is currently zoned C-4 commercial. The applicant is seeking a variance to change that use to residential for all parcels included in the development.

The applicant chose to modify their application. They removed eight of the nine variance requests, and modified the ninth variance request by limiting the parcels they were requesting the change of use for to only those properties that were originally built as single family residential, their historical use. These are buildings marked D, F, B, G and H on the site plan.

The two excluded parcels in the modified application (parcels marked A and E on the site plan) would remain C-4 commercial under this scenario.

The Commission then voted unanimously to recommend the application as modified.

This action marks an extraordinary moment for preservation in the district: Contributing structures, originally built for residential use that had been converted to commercial use to meet prevailing market demand decades ago may now be returned to their original use as private residences.

When engaged citizens, a skillful Historic District Commission and a reasonable developer work to find common ground respectfully, intelligent preservation decisions are made possible. That is exactly what occurred at yesterdays monthly meeting of the German Village Commission. Congratulations to our residents who made such a strong effort to address this application in a coordinated and collaborative manner and to the applicant for actively listening to resident concerns and offering a solution to which we could all say a resounding YES!