OKC Council Adopts Historic Preservation Ordinance; Education Sought on Guidelines

Article excerpt

Owning and selling property in a historic preservation district involves special restrictions which too many real estate agents and buyers are still unaware of, members of the Oklahoma City Council found on Tuesday.

Shortly after the council voted unanimously to approve a set of preservation guidelines and a revised historic preservation district ordinance, the council became embroiled in a discussion over long- standing - but not easily remedied - flaws in the system.

Throughout the yearlong process to come up with a set of guidelines for the city's historic preservation neighborhoods, two issues have continually been brought up by stakeholders: education and enforcement.

Scott and Kristen Quillin, a young couple who are both continuing their education while renovating a historic home, appeared before the council Tuesday to appeal a decision of the Historic Preservation and Landmark Commission.

(Tuesday's meeting was the last in which the council will hear appeals from the commission. The new ordinance, which passed with an emergency and will go into effect immediately, redirects appeals of the commission's decisions to the Board of Adjustment.)

The commission told the couple they will have to rip out more than $3,000 worth of new, non-historic windows they installed without obtaining a certificate of approval from the commission, as required by ordinance.

Although the design of the new and the old windows is the same, the new windows are made of metal instead of wood and therefore are in violation of the historic preservation ordinance, which specifically requires like materials to be used for replacements when necessary.

A motion to uphold the couple's appeal failed in a tie vote by the council, and the couple will have to replace the windows.

Though council members agreed that the windows were in violation of the ordinance, the discussion became centered on the need for education. The couple claimed that they did not know they were supposed to get a certificate of appropriateness before beginning any work to the exterior of their home.

The real estate agent who sold them the home, Robert Dugan, appeared with the Quillins before the council. Dugan said that he too was ignorant of the restrictions on work done to the home.

The seller was a 90-something-year-old man living in a nursing home in Tulsa, Dugan said, who did not disclose the historic preservation requirements. Dugan said he did not receive any notice of the historic preservation requirements from the previous real estate agent, the title company provided no information on the matter, and nothing was mentioned about it during closing.

Tom Daniel, chairman of the commission, told Dugan that as a Realtor he should have known about the zoning requirements.

As reflected by the vote, the council was divided on the matter. Council members Amy Brooks, Ward 2, and Ann Simank, Ward 6, both have historic preservation districts in their wards. Both members upheld the commission's decision, claiming that ignorance of the law is no defense.

"We do have people who come before the commission whom we have told, who seem to have problems remembering - or maybe they just got caught," Brooks said. To allow the couple to keep their windows creates a double standard unfair to the people who abide by the ordinance, she said.

Simank argued that the neighborhoods have worked very hard to obtain historic preservation zoning, and the council should support them.

On the other hand, Mayor Kirk Humphreys pointed out that the restrictions for historic preservation districts apply only to a handful of neighborhoods across the city, and homeowners new to the neighborhood wouldn't know what was required of them unless they were told. …