Rossmoyne gets historic support

CITY HALL— Residents of the Rossmoyne neighborhood gathered twice the required signatures backing a potential historic designation for the area and secured support Monday from the Historic Preservation Commission.

The commission voted 4 to 0 to approve moving ahead with a study that would survey a roughly 500-home area to determine its historical context — the basis on which historic neighborhoods are established. If successful, the district would be more than five times the size of the city's three other historic districts combined, city officials said.

Commissioner Desiree Shier did not vote because she lives in the area.

Advocates for the proposed district returned the petition "with a hefty number of signatures," said Jay Platt, city planner for historic preservation and urban design. The petition is one of two that will be required in the historic district process.

"The proponents for the district have done an amazing job reaching out to the community," said Platt,. "It's one of the best outreach role models that we have seen so far in this process."

Signature gatherers obtained support from 50% of the area's homeowners, far exceeding the amount of signatures — more than 25% — needed under the city ordinance, Platt said.

For the second signature-gathering campaign, the threshold will be higher, with more than 50% of the affected homeowners having to sign on to the district.

"It's pretty exciting at this early stage in process that they have so much support, and there's hope and expectation that support is going to build in the next coming months," he said.

Gathering the needed signatures was challenging because some homeowners were not available, so organizers had to make repeated visits, said Lorna Vartanian, president of the Rossmoyne Mountain Homeowners Assn. and one of the authors of the application.

"We are actually very thrilled that we were able to come in with more than double the required signatures at this point in the process, and we feel like we passed an important milestone," she said.

The large number of signatures may be testament to the neighborhood's urgency to make Rossmoyne a historic district, Vartanian said.

The Historic Preservation Commission in April voted to allow residents to distribute the petition asking for a survey of the Rossmoyne area to determine whether homes qualify as being historic.

The Rossmoyne neighborhood, which is one of the city's few planned communities, was developed in the 1920s and '30s.

Houses built in historical areas may face tighter controls on any changes to home facades, and any modifications must be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission. Supporters have cited a desire to maintain the unique character of a neighborhood and to preserve property values as reasons for creating such districts.

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