Historic Washington Park • Meridian~Kessler
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  • May 9, 2016
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May 9, 2016 Newsletter



Updates for all property owners on drafting a preservation plan.

May 9, 2016

Washington Park Needs a Preservation Plan

Although the City of Indianapolis has a planning department, building codes, neighborhood plans and other tools, these are ineffective at preventing such things as demolitions, out-of-scale homes or secondary structures, and other architectural or design modifications that are contextually inappropriate for existing neighborhoods. Such elements as size, scale, massing and setback (the distance of structure from its property lines), as well as design and construction materials, contribute significantly to the overall look and feel of neighborhoods. Without consideration for these elements, the character of the neighborhood begins to erode.

Many neighborhoods in Indianapolis have lost or are in danger of losing their historic charm due to demolitions and remodeling efforts that did not have a review process in place to ensure the modifications were sensitive to these character-defining features. Even neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places do not receive adequate protection from inconsistent modifications or demolitions. In Meridian-Kessler today, there are many examples of contextually inconsistent new homes, additions, demolitions and divided lots that now have multiple homes where one home used to stand. If these areas had preservation plans, the changes would have resulted in a more contextually appropriate outcome.

Design review does not cause undue hardship or create a financial burden to property owners. In fact, Dick Butler and Jamie Street, Washington Park property owners, whose home is already protected by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission (IHPC), have lived in their home nearly 30 years. In that time, they have needed a certificate of appropriateness (COA) only three times. It is likely that Washington Park property owners will have similar experiences, if a preservation plan is approved. And property owners for decades to come will benefit from the framework and guidance offered by such a plan.

Numerous studies across the nation, including some in Indiana, have shown that property values increase faster in historic districts than similar properties in areas with no historic district designation. In his study, Benefits of Residential Historic District Designation for Property Owners, Jonathan Mabry, Ph.D., concluded: “A few of the designated districts experienced extremely high rates of appreciation, or very modest rates, but most saw property values increase by 5-35% per decade over the values in similar, undesignated neighborhoods…Within these data, another important pattern is that newer properties within historic districts benefit just as much as older properties.” (See Mabry’s entire study.)

A Note about Covenants 

Some Washington Park residents have suggested that private covenants, already included in their deeds, negate the need for a preservation plan. The Washington Park Exploratory Committee, with the help of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission and its legal counsel, looked into what these covenants may provide and how they work.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a covenant running with the land (sometimes called a real covenant) is a covenant that, because it relates to the land, binds successor grantees indefinitely. A restrictive covenant is a private agreement, usually in a deed or lease, that restricts the use or occupancy of real property, especially by specifying lot sizes, building lines, architectural styles, and the uses to which the property may be put.

Restrictive covenants, real covenants, and other real estate covenants are agreements that may affect real property, its physical attributes, uses and/or other factors. In general, unless required by a governmental unit, these private agreements are not enforceable through or by any governmental department or agency. To enforce a private covenant, a person must pursue legal action in a court of competent jurisdiction. Simply put: To prevent, stop, or reverse a violation of a private covenant, a person must successfully sue the violator (presumably a neighbor or even a friend). Further, the existing private covenants in Washington Park are very broad and do not offer adequate protection for character-defining features of our neighborhood.

On the other hand, property owners in Indianapolis may collaborate in the development of a preservation plan that protects the features that are important to them and proactively addresses current and future challenges. Drafting a preservation plan is a collaborative process, where neighbors come together to share ideas, establish goals and objectives and determine how best to protect Washington Park as an architectural gem of a neighborhood in Indianapolis.

WP Defines Roles and Responsibilities for Developing a Preservation Plan
The Washington Park Exploratory Committee has been working to establish some basic parameters for what was previously calling the “Steering Committee.” The following provides a brief overview.

There will be two groups: the Working Committee and the Neighborhood Consultants. These groups will work in concert to facilitate drafting an acceptable preservation plan. The Working Committee will include seven (7) or nine (9) property owner volunteers, who will meet at regularly scheduled, publicized meetings to drive the preservation plan development process. Working Committee members will:

  1. Organize, publicize and attend regular meetings
  2. Record minutes of all meetings
  3. Draft and maintain an evolving Working Preservation Plan from the input of the Neighborhood Consultants with guidance from Indiana Historic Preservation Commission staff
  4. Ensure transparency of the Working Preservation Plan development.

The Working Committee will be guided by Neighborhood Consultants, an unlimited number of Washington Park property owners who want to provide input and guidance regarding the Working Preservation Plan. The Neighborhood Consultants will:

  1. Explore, observe, review and ask about the elements of the Working Preservation Plan during Working Committee meetings and/or at Neighborhood Consultant meeting
  2. Attend Working Committee meetings, as desired
  3. Provide adequate support to Working Committee members to ensure they can accurately represent property owners priorities.

The primary reason for two separate groups is to ensure that every interested property owner can participate while maintaining a small committed group that will carry the drafting process forward. The Working Committee members and Neighborhood Consultants are equally responsible for drafting the Working Preservation Plan.The primary difference between the two groups is that the Working Committee is responsible for facilitating, documenting and communicating elements of the Working Preservation Plan to all Washington Park property owners. The Working Committee members will also represent specific geographic areas throughout the proposed historic area to ensure all areas are represented; whereas Neighborhood Consultants may be from any area within Washington Park.

Please watch your email for additional information about these groups.

Stay Connected

Watch your email or www.washingtonpark.mkna.org for local historic area designation (i.e., the Preservation Plan drafting process) or Washington Park’s Facebook page for more communications, reference materials, status updates, and contacts.
If you have any concerns or questions about Washington Park’s status in the IHPC designation process, please contact Kim Kourany at washingtonpark@mkna.org.
Copyright © 2016 Meridian Kessler Neighborhood Association, All rights reserved.
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Meridian Kessler Neighborhood Association

4550 N Central Avenue

IndianapolisIN  46205

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