Local Laws

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Port Huron’s Historic District Ordinance

Chapter 52. Zoning

ARTICLE III. District Regulations

DIVISION 14. Historic Districts

[Code 1992, § 32-730(a); 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157]

The purpose of this division is to:

(1)  Safeguard the heritage of the City by preserving one or more historic districts in the City that reflect elements of the City’s history, architecture, engineering, archeology, or culture.

(2)  Stabilize and improve property values in such districts and the surrounding areas.

(3)  Foster civic beauty.

(4)  Strengthen the local economy; and

(5)  Promote the use of historic districts for the education, pleasure and welfare of the citizens of the City.

[Code 1992, § 32-730(b); 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157; 10-10-2005 by Ord. No. 1253]

The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this division, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:

ALTERATION  Work that changes the detail of a resource but does not change its basic size or shape.

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS  The written approval of a permit application for work that is appropriate and that does not adversely affect a resource.

COMMISSION  The Historic District Commission.

COMMITTEE  The historic district study committee appointed by the City Council.

DEMOLITION  The razing or destruction, whether entirely or in part, of a resource and includes but is not limited to demolition by neglect.

DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT  Neglect in maintaining, repairing, or securing a resource that results in deterioration of an exterior feature of the resource or the loss of structural integrity of the resource.

DENIAL  The written rejection of a permit application for work that is inappropriate and that adversely affects a resource.

HISTORIC DISTRICT  An area, or group of areas not necessarily having contiguous boundaries, that contains one resource or a group of resources that are related by history, architecture, archeology, engineering or culture, as approved by the City Council. A historic landmark as defined in this section shall be considered a historic district for purposes of this division and state law.

HISTORIC LANDMARK  A historic landmark (resource) as designated by the federal or state government and the local Historic District Commission and is, therefore, deemed to be its own historic district. A historic district which contains only one resource (landmark) is subject to the requirements and restrictions of this division.

HISTORIC PRESERVATION  The identification, evaluation, establishment, and protection of resources significant in history, architecture, archeology, engineering or culture.

HISTORIC RESOURCE  A publicly or privately owned building, structure, site, object, feature or open space that is significant in the history, architecture, archeology, engineering or culture of the City.

NOTICE TO PROCEED  The written permission issued by the Historic District Commission for work to be performed within a historic district which is otherwise inappropriate when the commission has found the proposed work to be necessary, pursuant to a finding under Section 52-581.

OPEN SPACE  Undeveloped land, a naturally landscaped area, or a formal or man-made landscape area that provides a connective link or a buffer between resources.

ORDINARY MAINTENANCE  Keeping a resource unimpaired and in good condition through ongoing minor intervention, undertaken from time to time, in its exterior condition. Ordinary maintenance does not change the external appearance of the resource except through the elimination of the usual and expected effects of weathering. Ordinary maintenance does not constitute work for the purposes of this division.

PROPOSED HISTORIC DISTRICT  An area, or group of areas not necessarily having contiguous boundaries, that has delineated boundaries and that is under review by a committee or a standing committee for the purpose of making a recommendation as to whether it should be established as a historic district or added to an established historic district.

REPAIR  To restore a decayed or damaged resource to a good or sound condition by any process. A repair that changes the external appearance of a resource constitutes work for the purposes of this division.

RESOURCE  One or more publicly or privately owned historic or nonhistoric buildings, structures, sites, objects, features or open spaces located within an historic district.

WORK  Construction, addition, alteration, repair, moving, excavation or demolition.

[Code 1992, § 32-731; 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157; 5-14-2001 by Ord. No. 1183; 10-22-2001 by Ord. No. 1189]

(a)  Military Road Historic District. The boundaries of the Military Road Historic District are as follows:

Beginning at the southeast corner of block 73, White Plat; thence westward to the centerline of the alley at the south line of block 55, White Plat; thence north to a point east of the north line of lot 23, block 55; thence west to the east line of block 42, White Plat; thence south to the southeast corner of that block; thence west to the southwest corner of that block; thence north to the northwest corner of that block; thence east to a point directly south of the centerline of the vacated alley of block 41, White Plat; thence north to a point due west of the north line of lot 13, block 41, White Plat; thence due east to the centerline of Military Street; thence north along the centerline of Military Street, continuing across the bridge on the centerline of Huron Avenue to a point directly east of the southernmost point of block 16, Butler Plat; thence west to the southernmost point of block 16, Butler Plat; thence northwesterly along the southwest side of block 16 to the west line of lot 2, block 16; thence north to the southeast corner of lot 9, block 16; thence west along the south line of lots, 9, 10, and 11; thence northwesterly along the south line of lots 12, 13, and 14 to a point directly south of a point on the north line of lot 14, that is 26 feet west of the east line of lot 14; thence due north to the point on the north line of lot 14, that is 26 feet west of the east line of lot 14, thence east along the north line of block 16, Butler Plat, to a point directly south of the west line of block 17, Butler Plat; thence north to the north line of McMorran Boulevard; thence west to the southwest corner of block 26, Butler Plat; thence north along the west line of block 26, Butler Plat, to the north line of such block; thence east to a point directly south of the west line of lot 1, block 18, Butler Plat; thence north to the southeast corner of lot 9, block 18, Butler Plat; thence west to the southwest corner of lot 9; thence north to the northwest corner of lot 7; thence east to the northeast corner of such lot 7, block 18; thence north to the southwest corner of lot 1, block 19, Butler Plat; thence west 9.58 feet; thence north 42 feet; thence west 8.82 feet; thence north eight feet; thence west 31.6 feet; thence north to the north line of lot 11, block 19, Butler Plat; thence east to the centerline of Huron Avenue; thence south to a point directly west of the north line of block 12, Butler Plat; thence east to the centerline of Michigan Street; thence south along such centerline to the northeast side of block 1, Butler Plat; thence southeasterly to the east corner of lot 6, block 1, Butler Plat; thence southwesterly to the south corner of lot 6, block 1, Butler Plat; thence southeasterly across the Black River to the east corner of lot 7, block 93, White Plat; thence northwesterly 101.5 feet; thence southwesterly to a point on the southwest side of block 93 that is 101.5 feet northwest of the south corner of lot 7, block 93, White Plat; thence south to the northeast side of block 58, White Plat; thence southeasterly to the northeast corner of block 58, White Plat; thence south to the northeast corner of block 60, White Plat; thence east to the northeast corner of block 73, White Plat; thence south to place of beginning.

(b)  Olde Town Historic District. The boundaries of the Olde Town Historic District are as follows:

Beginning at the northeast corner of block 39, White Plat; thence west to the northwest corner of lot 2, block 22; thence south to the southwest corner of lot 13, block 22; thence southerly to a point 14 feet due west of the northeast corner of lot 2, block 23, White Plat; thence due south to the south line of lot 2, block 23; thence due west to the southeast corner of lot 1, block 16, White Plat; thence due north 26 feet; thence due west to the west line of lot 1, block 16; thence due south to the southwest corner of lot 1, block 16; thence due west to the center of Tenth Street; thence due south to a point due west of the centerline of the alley of block 15, White Plat; thence due east to the northwest corner of lot 13, block 24, White Plat; thence due south to a point 76 feet north of the south line of lot 13; thence due east 44 feet; thence due south to the south line of block 24; thence southerly to a point ten feet west of the northeast corner of lot 2, block 25, White Plat; thence due south 95 feet; thence due west to the west line of lot 2, block 25; thence due south to the south line of block 25; thence due east to the southeast corner of lot 16, block 36, White Plat; thence due north to a point directly west of the southwest corner of lot 1, block 44, White Plat; thence due east to west line of lot 14, block 44, White Plat; thence due south to a point 46.2 feet south of the northwest corner of lot 13, block 44; thence due east 41 feet; thence due north to a point 4.8 feet south of the north line of lot 13, block 44; thence due east to the east line of lot 13; thence easterly to the southwest corner of lot 1, block 53, White Plat; thence due east 60 feet; thence due south to the south line of lot 2, block 53; thence due east to the centerline of the alley of block 53; thence due north to the north line of block 53; thence northerly to the centerline of the alley at the south line of block 54, White Plat; thence due north to a point east of the north line of lot 23, block 55, White Plat; thence west to the east line of block 42, White Plat; thence south to the southeast corner of block 42; thence west to the southwest corner of block 42; thence north to the northwest corner of block 42; thence west to the northeast corner of block 38; thence north to the place of beginning.

[Code 1992, § 32-732; 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157]

There shall be no construction, addition, alteration, repair, moving, excavation, or demolition of a resource within any designated historic districts within the City, unless such action complies with the requirements set forth in this division.

[Code 1992, § 32-733; 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157; 3-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1161; 5-24-2010 by Ord. No. 1311]

(a)  Created. In order to execute the purposes declared in this division, there is hereby created a commission to be called the Historic District Commission.

(b)  Membership; compensation; removal. The Historic District Commission shall consist of nine members whose residence is located in the City. They shall be appointed by the City Council for terms of office of three years on a staggered-term basis. At least two members of the commission shall be appointed from a list of citizens submitted by a duly organized and existing preservation society. The commission shall include, if available, a graduate of an accredited school of architecture who has two years of architectural experience or who is an architect registered in this state. A majority of the members of the commission shall have a clearly demonstrated interest in and knowledge of historic preservation. A vacancy occurring in the membership of the commission for any cause shall be filled within 60 calendar days by a person appointed by the City Council for the unexpired term. The members of the commission shall serve without compensation. Any member of the commission may be removed by vote of the City Council for inefficiency, neglect of duty, conflict of interest, or malfeasance in office, after due consideration by the City Council.

(c)  Duties and powers. Duties and powers of the commission shall be as follows:

(1)  It shall be the duty of the commission to review all plans for the construction, addition, alteration, repair, moving, excavation or demolition of structures in the historic district, and it shall have the power to act upon such plans before a permit for such activity can be granted. In reviewing the plans, the commission shall follow the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings, as set forth in 36 CFR 67, or their equivalent as approved or established by the State Historical Center, formerly the Bureau of Michigan History, of the State Department of History, Arts and Libraries, and shall also give consideration to the following:

  1. The historic or architectural value and significance of the historic resource and its relationship to the historic value of the surrounding area.
  2. The relationship of the exterior architectural features of such historic resource to the rest of the resource and to the surrounding area.
  3. The general compatibility of the exterior design, arrangement, texture and materials proposed to be used.
  4. Any other factor, including aesthetics, which it deems pertinent.

(2)  The commission shall review and act upon only exterior features of a resource and shall not review and act upon interior arrangements unless specifically authorized to do so by the City Council or unless interior work will cause visible changes to the exterior of the historic resource. The commission shall not disapprove applications except in regard to considerations as set forth in subsection (c)(1) of this section.

(3)  The commission may delegate the issuance of certificates of appropriateness for specified minor classes of work to its staff, to the inspector of buildings, or to another delegated authority. The commission shall provide to such delegated authorities specific written standards for issuing the certificates of appropriateness under this subsection. On at least a quarterly basis, the commission shall review the certificates of appropriateness, if any, issued for work by its staff, the inspector, or another authority to determine whether or not the delegated responsibilities should be continued.

(4)  If an application is for work that will adversely affect the exterior of a resource the commission considers valuable to the City, state, or nation, and the commission determines that the alteration or loss of that resource will adversely affect the public purpose of the City, state, or nation, the commission shall attempt to establish with the owner of the resource an economically feasible plan for preservation of the resource.

(5)  If all efforts by the commission to preserve a resource fail or if it is determined by the City Council that public ownership is most suitable, the City Council, if considered to be in the public interest, may acquire the resource using public funds, downtown development association (DDA) funds, public or private gifts, grants or proceeds from the issuance of revenue bonds. Such an acquisition shall be based upon the recommendation of the commission. The commission is responsible for maintaining publicly owned resources using its own funds, if not specifically designated for other purposes, or public funds committed for that use by the City Council. Upon recommendation of the commission, the City may sell resources acquired under this section with protective easements included in the property transfer documents, if appropriate.

(d)  Rules. Rules of the Commission are as follows:

(1)  The Historic District Commission shall adopt its own rules of procedure and shall adopt design review standards and guidelines for resource treatment to carry out its duties under this division.

(2)  All meetings of the commission shall be open to the public, and any person or his duly constituted representative shall be entitled to appear and be heard on any matter before the commission prior to its reaching a decision.

(3)  Applicants may file supporting documentation in addition to the required forms and may be represented by legal counsel. An applicant may present testimony in support of his application from architects, engineers, or other qualified persons. If the applicant desires the commission to consider especially voluminous testimony, the commission may require that the testimony be presented in writing. Two copies of all supporting documents must be submitted.

(4)  Public notice of the time, date and place of meetings shall be given in the manner required by Public Act No. 267 of 1976 (MCL 15.261 et seq.). A meeting agenda shall be part of the notice and shall include a listing of each permit application to be reviewed or considered by the commission.

(5)  The commission shall keep a record of its resolutions, proceedings, and actions. A writing prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by the commission in the performance of an official function shall be made available to the public in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, Public Act No. 442 of 1976 (MCL 15.231 through 15.246).

(6)  The commission shall submit an annual report to the City Council of the general activities of the commission and shall submit such special reports as requested by the City Council.

[Code 1992, § 32-734; 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157; 5-24-2010 by Ord. No. 1311]

(a)  Filing of application. A permit shall be obtained before any work affecting the exterior appearance of a resource is performed within an historic district or any work affecting the interior arrangements, if this work causes visible change to the exterior of the resource. Any person, individual, partnership, firm, corporation, organization, institution, or agency of government proposing to do work shall file an application for a permit with the City inspection division. The application shall be referred together with all required supporting materials that make the application complete to the Historic District Commission for consideration at the next regularly scheduled meeting. A permit shall not be issued and proposed work shall not proceed until the commission has acted on the application by issuing a certificate of appropriateness or a notice to proceed as prescribed in this division.

(b)  Contents of application. A complete application shall include the following:

(1)  A completed permit application.

(2)  A completed Historic District Commission application form, together with the following:

  1. Accurate drawings, photos, color samples, material samples, or any other exhibits which would be helpful to the commission in reviewing the application.
  2. Any drawings submitted in support of the application shall be drawn to scale with accurate dimensions and accurate site locations. The drawings shall accurately indicate relationships to adjacent structures; descriptions or samples of colors, textures, finishes and quality of material to be used on visible exterior areas.
  3. Any other construction documents or samples which the commission finds to be necessary for the proper review of the permit application.

(c)  Incomplete applications. If the Historic District Commission application is incomplete, the commission shall so inform the applicant and shall state what additional information and/or documents the commission requires to complete the application.

(d)  Action upon application. The Historic District Commission shall review the application according to the duties and powers specified in this division. In reviewing the application, the commission must make every effort to confer with the applicant. No fee shall be charged to process an application through the commission beyond the existing inspection division fees. The failure of the commission to act within 60 calendar days after the date a complete application is filed with the commission, unless an extension is agreed upon in writing by the applicant and the commission, shall be considered to constitute approval, and the inspection division shall proceed to process the application as if the commission had issued a certificate of appropriateness or a notice to proceed.

(e)  Approval of application. If the commission finds such proposed work appropriate, it shall issue a certificate of appropriateness determination which is to be signed by the Planning Director, attached to the application for a building permit, application, and all submitted documentation, and immediately transmitted to the inspection division. After the certificate of appropriateness determination has been issued and the building permit granted to the applicant, the City inspection division shall inspect the work permitted and shall take such action as is necessary to enforce compliance with the approved plans. Approval of the permit shall be in addition to any other building, plumbing, electrical or mechanical permit required by ordinance or state law.

(f)  Denial of application. If the commission finds proposed work inappropriate, it shall issue a denial determination and shall state its reasons for doing so and shall transmit a record of such action and reasons therefor in writing to the inspection division and to the applicant. The commission may suggest appropriate alternatives to the applicant if it issues a denial. The applicant may make modifications to the permit application and shall have the right to resubmit the application at any time after so doing. A denial of an application shall be binding on the planning department, Building Inspector or any such other relevant authority, and a permit shall not be issued. A denial of an application shall also include a notice to the applicant of the rights of appeal.

(g)  Repair or ordinary maintenance and prior permit work. Nothing in this division shall be construed to prevent repair or ordinary maintenance, as defined in Section 52-777, of a resource within the historic district or to prevent work on any resource under a permit issued by the City inspection division before the enactment of the ordinance from which this division is derived.

(h)  Notice to proceed. Work within an historic district which may otherwise be inappropriate may be permitted through the issuance of a notice to proceed determination by the commission if any of the following conditions prevail and if the proposed work is found by the commission to be necessary to substantially improve or correct any of the following:

(1)  The resource constitutes a hazard to the safety of the public or the occupants of a structure;

(2)  The resource is a deterrent to a major improvement program which will be of substantial benefit to the community and the applicant proposing the work has obtained all necessary planning and zoning approvals, financing and environmental clearances;

(3)  Retention of the resources would cause undue financial hardship to the owner when a governmental action, an act of God, or other events beyond the owner’s control created the hardship, and all feasible alternatives to eliminate the financial hardship, which may include offering the resource for sale at its fair market value or moving the resource to a vacant site within the historic district have been attempted and exhausted by the owner; or

(4)  Retention of the resource would not be in the interests of the majority of the community.

[Code 1992, § 32-735; 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157; 5-24-2010 by Ord. No. 1311]

(a)  Any applicant aggrieved by a decision of the commission may file an appeal with the state historic preservation review board of the state historic preservation office. The appeal shall be filed within 60 days after the decision is furnished to the applicant.

(b)  An applicant aggrieved by the decision of the state historic preservation review board may appeal the decision to the county circuit court having jurisdiction over the Historic District Commission’s decision that was appealed to the state historic preservation review board. Such applicant may only appeal to the county circuit court after appealing to the state historic preservation review board.

(c)  In addition, any citizen or duly organized historic preservation organization in the City, other than the resource property owner, jointly or severally aggrieved by a decision of the commission may appeal the decision to the county circuit court.

[Code 1992, § 32-736; 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157]

Upon a finding by the Historic District Commission that a historic resource either in a historic district or in a proposed historic district which is subject to commission review pursuant to the terms of Section 52-586 is threatened by demolition by neglect, the commission may do either of the following:

(1)  Require the owner of the resource to repair all conditions contributing to demolition by neglect; or

(2)  If the owner does not make the repairs within a reasonable time, the commission or its agents may enter the property and make such repairs as are necessary to prevent demolition by neglect. The cost of the work shall be charged to the owner and may be levied as a special assessment against the property. The commission or its agents may enter the property for purposes of this section upon obtaining an order from the county circuit court.

[Code 1992, § 32-737; 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157]

(a)  When work has been done upon a historic resource without a permit and the Historic District Commission finds that the work does not qualify for a certificate of appropriateness, the commission may require an owner to restore the resource to the condition the resource was in before the inappropriate work or to modify the work so that it qualifies for a certificate of appropriateness.

(b)  If the owner does not comply with the restoration or modification requirement within a reasonable time, the commission may seek an order from the county circuit court to require the owner to restore the resource to its former condition or to modify the work so that it qualifies for a certificate of appropriateness.

(c)  If the owner does not comply or cannot comply with the order of the court, the commission or its agents may enter the property and conduct work necessary to restore the resource to its former condition or modify the work so that it qualifies for a certificate of appropriateness in accordance with the court’s order. The cost of the work shall be charged to the owner and may be levied by the City as a special assessment against the property. When acting pursuant to such order of the county circuit court, the commission or its agents may enter a property for purposes of this section.

[Code 1992, § 32-738; 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157]

Before establishing, amending, adding to, removing properties from or eliminating any historic district, the City Council shall appoint a historic district study committee, as provided for in Section 3 of Public Act 169 of 1970 (MCL 399.203).

[Code 1992, § 32-739; 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157; 5-24-2010 by Ord. No. 1311]

Upon receipt of substantial evidence showing the presence of historic, architectural, archeological, engineering or cultural significance of a proposed historic district, the City Council may adopt a resolution requiring that all applications for work to be performed within the proposed historic district be referred to the Historic District Commission as prescribed in Sections 52-579 and 52-581. The commission shall review applications with the same powers that would apply if the proposed historic district was an established historic district for not more than one year or until such time as the City Council approves or rejects the establishment of the historic district by ordinance, whichever occurs first.

[Code 1992, § 32-740; 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157]

(a)  The City may accept gifts, grants or bequests from the state or federal government for historic restoration purposes or historic purposes. It may accept public or private gifts, grants or bequests for such purposes; provided, however, that such gifts, grants or bequests are not prohibited by the Charter and are not used for the purpose of paying any fees or expenses arising out of any litigation. Further, the City Council may appoint the Historic District Commission to administer on behalf of the City such gifts, grants or bequests for the purpose provided.

(b)  The City Treasurer shall be custodian of funds of the Historic District Commission, and authorized expenditures shall be certified by the City Treasurer or Finance Director, designated by such Historic District Commission. The Historic District Commission shall annually report to the City Council any money it shall receive or expend.

[Code 1992, § 32-741; 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157]

(a)  A person, individual, partnership, firm, corporation, organization, institution, or agency of government that violates this division is responsible for a municipal civil infraction and may be fined not more than $500.

(b)  A person, individual, partnership, firm, corporation, organization, institution, or agency of government that violates this division and state law may be ordered by the court to pay the costs to restore or replicate a resource unlawfully constructed, added to, altered, repaired, moved, excavated, or demolished.

[Code 1992, § 32-742; 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157]

If any other ordinance is found to be in conflict with the provisions of this division, the provisions of this division shall control.

[Code 1992, § 32-743; 2-22-1999 by Ord. No. 1157]

No other portion, paragraph or phrase of this Code shall be affected by this division except as to the sections of this division. If any portion, section or subsection of this division shall be held invalid for any reason, such invalidation shall not be construed to affect the validity of any other part or portion of this division or of this Code.

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