Avondale resident pushes back against Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission

It’s tough to make changes to buildings in a historic neighborhood, as Avondale resident Virginia Harris well knows.

In November 2017, Harris was turned down by the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission (JHPC) when she submitted an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) to build a two-story addition onto her 1909 one-story home on the corner of Challen and Riverside Avenues and reconstruct the garage.

The primary concern put forth by the planning staff was that the addition, at 28-feet high, was much taller than the original structure’s front parapet wall, which is a character-defining feature.

“The scale of the addition combined with the height confirms the addition is not subordinate to the main house and conflicts with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and Riverside-Avondale Design Regulations,” stated the staff report.

Harris made changes to the proposed design, as recommend by the commission in August 2017, reducing the addition to 26 feet in height and moving it away from the rear property line so the eave would not be on the property line.

The revisions were supported by Adrienne Burke, executive director of Riverside Avondale Preservation. In an Oct. 20, 2017 email to Harris and to JHPC staffers Christian Popoli and Blair Mullins, Burke noted “The actual impact to the historic structure is only in one place and on the rear of the building, so it would be reversible in the future per the SOIS (Secretary of the Interior’s Standards). The primary goal is protecting the original historic structure, and it is largely left intact as part of this project. The façade will have no changes.”

Even then, Harris’ application for a COA was denied.

The staff report stated “the reduction of two feet from the addition is not enough to warrant a change in staff’s original recommendation as the addition is still a two-story addition attached to a one-story landmark house.”

So, as Harris had indicated last fall, she is appealing the denial. “I will work within the guidelines,” she said after the August 2017 hearing, “but if I don’t think they are fair, I will oppose them.”

A public hearing by the Land Use and Zoning committee will be held Wednesday, Feb. 21, 5 p.m. at City Hall, at which time Harris can plead her case.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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