Norhill Historic District

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Project Scope

The Norhill Historic District Design Guidelines have been created to:

  • preserve the historic character
  • maintain the traditional building scale in front
  • maintain the traditional lot coverage
  • develop context sensitive design
  • clarify the existing historic preservation ordinance
  • provide a user-friendly design guidelines document

Draft Norhill Historic District Design Guidelines

You may review the document in the documents tab to the right.

Please submit comments in the comments section below.

Project Scope

The Norhill Historic District Design Guidelines have been created to:

  • preserve the historic character
  • maintain the traditional building scale in front
  • maintain the traditional lot coverage
  • develop context sensitive design
  • clarify the existing historic preservation ordinance
  • provide a user-friendly design guidelines document

Draft Norhill Historic District Design Guidelines

You may review the document in the documents tab to the right.

Please submit comments in the comments section below.

Please comment on the draft design guidelines in the space below.

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    The proposed guidelines for Norhill pose considerable limitations on property owners' rights within the community. Several key adjustments are necessary to address these restrictions before formal adoption. The current proposal suggests a FAR of 0.38, which significantly constrains the potential for property expansion. This limitation, in practical terms, restricts homeowners to modest increases in square footage, hindering substantial improvements and adversely impacting property resale values. To align with recent approvals by the HAHC and neighboring areas like the Heights, an increase to a FAR of 0.5 is recommended. The imposition of setback regulations for second-floor additions presents practical challenges, potentially resulting in awkward design solutions. Granting homeowners the ability to match existing setbacks for second-story construction, with reasonable rear setback allowances, promotes design coherence without compromising neighborhood aesthetics. Contemporary renovation trends, supported by recent HAHC approvals, advocate for the inclusion of attached and two-story garages. Amending the guidelines to permit these modifications maintains consistency with evolving architectural preferences while respecting the neighborhood's historical character. Requiring historic photographic evidence for porch restoration presents logistical challenges. Instead, adopting criteria based on archival documentation or contextual architectural similarity facilitates practical and historically sensitive restoration efforts. In summary, these recommended adjustments serve to refine the proposed guidelines for Norhill, fostering a balanced regulatory framework that respects property rights while preserving the neighborhood's unique character and architectural heritage.

    Liz Hughes asked 3 days ago
    1. Hello and thank you for your comments.

      These are draft guidelines and not the final guidelines.

      As you are aware, the Norhill homes were built circa 1920, on substantially smaller lots than the modern homes that are being built today. Also, it is important to state that historic districts with lots larger than those in Norhill do not have a FAR of .5, and I am sure the HAHC will take that into consideration.

      Your deed restrictions do not allow two-story garages and the city of Houston does not regulate or enforce deed restrictions. Please feel free to provide us with the addresses of NEW 2-story garages in Norhill as we have do not recall any cases where this has occurred.

      Please feel free to attend the Norhill resident workshops either on February 27th or March 5th.

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    The proposed guidelines, if enacted, would represent a significant restriction on property owners’ rights in Norhill. The following restrictions should be remedied via changes to the proposed guidelines before they are adopted: 1) Increase the proposed FAR to 0.5. A 0.38 FAR for Norhill would limit the majority of homeowners to a 1,900 sq ft home, meaning that most homes would only be able to increase their square footage by 400-600 square feet. This would significantly stifle further improvements to the community, as trying to renovate a home for such small square footage and still see commiserate improvements to a potential re-sale price would be impossible. The FAR should be increased to 0.5 to match recent approvals by HAHC that are currently being constructed in Norhill: 731 W. Temple = 0.553, 802 W. Temple = 0.626, 901 Key St = 0.5451, 725 W. Cottage = 0.4630. Also, when looking to the design guidelines for the Heights, a much larger FAR of 0.48 is also seen. 2) Remove the side and rear setback requirements for the 2nd floor. Homeowners should be allowed to match the side setbacks of their existing home with their 2nd level. Otherwise, you are asking homeowners to awkwardly design staircases to be in the middle of their first floor. Rear setbacks of 5 feet are acceptable, the design guidelines for the Heights utilize this as well. 3) Attached garages and two-story garages should be allowed in the design guidelines. The deed restrictions prohibit new garage apartments from being constructed, they do not disallow connected garages or two-story garages. Multiple recent approvals by the HAHC support this and the design guidelines should be amended to uphold that these types of renovations are consistent with the neighborhood. Example properties include: 901 Key St., 907 Key St, 802 W. Temple. 4) Remove the requirement of a COA for a fence. A COA should not be needed for a fence, that is a waste of homeowners and the HAHC’s time and resources. 5) Ensure that existing structures are protected and able to be rebuilt in the event of neglect or a tragedy. For the Context Area for New Build’s (Page 6, 1.2), if an existing structure is destroyed due to fire, flood, or other Force Majeure events and a homeowner needs to re-build they should be allowed to utilize the structure that existed as a basis for the new structure. If they are required instead to utilize interior lots that had not been altered, they could be put in a position where they bought a specific home and now are unable to replicate it due to these design guidelines. Also, for Page 9, 2-2c., property owners should be able to make the most cost-effective decision to maintain a safe and aesthetically pleasing structure, not be beholden to trying to save a structure that hasn’t been maintained to maintain square footage that was considered in their purchase of the property. 6) A historic photograph should not be required to restore a home’s porch. Property owners should not be required to maintain a porch that is clearly not historic and is not able to be fully utilized. Instead, if a homeowner can find their home in the Crane catalog or point to similar homes in the context area, they can be allowed to restore their porch to match what would be considered historically accurate for the neighborhood.

    Kelsie asked 3 days ago

    Thank You for your comments.

    Please attend one of the resident workshops on either February 27th or March 5th.

    A FAR of .5 was not granted to historic districts with lots larger than those of Norhill, thus that number should be compromised. We too believe .38 is to restrictive, but we need to have dialogue to come to an agreement.

    Garages are covered in your deed restrictions and the city of Houston cannot regulate or enforce them.

    Side and rear setbacks are regulated by the city. We would suggest taking a drive around the Heights and notice how some home dwarf others and also how they encroach on their neighbors yard. Its something to consider... 

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    The proposed design guidelines represent an attack on property owner rights. Homes in Norhill were purchased with full knowledge of the deed restrictions in place, however the extremely restrictive setbacks, FARs, and garage/carport requirements that these design guidelines are proposing will make the ability to expand these homes in a way that allows people to fully enjoy their lot size impossible. The majority of lots in Norhill are 5,000 to 5,2000 sq ft, which means homes would never exceed ~1,900 sq ft. This would cripple property development in Norhill, which already has the highest price per square foot of any neighborhood in the heights. I implore the HAHC to go back and look at recent approvals they have provided post COVID to accommodate how people live their lives today (separate rooms for children, home offices for remote work, playrooms for children due to the oppressive heat Houston experiences), which requires more square footage. The HAHC should look to their most recent approvals and re-write these design guidelines to ensure that their decisions yesterday would still be made tomorrow.

    KB asked 3 days ago

    Hello and thank you for your comments.

    Please attend one of the resident workshops on either February 27th or March 5th.

    We believe in compromise as it relates to the 1900 SF, and that is why we would like your participation. We also believe .5 is asking the HAHC to approve something that they did not approve in historic districts with lots larger than the 5000 to 5200 in Norhill.

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    Regarding Section 2-2c: "No new Two-Story garages shall be constructed". I am vehemently opposed to this restriction. Nowhere in the NNA Deed Restrictions does it prohibit the construction of two-story garages. This is an unnecessary restriction. The NNA area already has about 110 two story garages. It is unfair to residents without two-story garages to prevent them from getting a two-story garage, when about 13-14% of residences already have one. A very large percentage of residences have neighbors who have two-store garages overlooking their properties. I propose that this restriction put to a vote at the general meeting of the neighborhood association.

    Jorgen asked 5 days ago

    Thank You for your comments.

    We suggest you address that with your neighborhood association as we cannot regulate or enforce deed restriction issues.

    If you have concerns about the design guideline draft, please feel free to attend one of the resident workshops on February 27th or March 5th.

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    I do not understand the rationale for calculating square footage allowed per home based on lot size. This makes no sense and significantly lowers the marketability and usefulness of our homes. As long as our home adheres to set backs then what we do to an added floor should be up to us and not some obscure calculation which has zero affect on ground area for drainage. The city allows homes like DeGeorge Townhomes to be built without consideration of ground cover and its effect on our neighborhood right behind it.

    KJN asked 5 days ago

    Hello and Thank you for your comments.

    Please feel free to attend one of the resident workshops on February 27th or March 5th.

    Contrary to belief, the FAR and lot coverage do contribute to drainage. The Historic Preservation Office, was not included in the design of the DeGeorge Townhomes as they are not inside of a historic district.

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    From my standpoint, the proposed guidelines for Norhill are unnecessarily restrictive for property owners. Prior to finalizing them, I'd like to proffer some revisions for consideration: 1) Relax setback rules for second-floor additions to avoid awkward designs 2) Increase the FAR to 0.5 for more flexibility in home size. 3) Homeowners these days typically seek attached or two-story garages, Norhill needs to relax the guidlines to allow for this. 4) Similarly, relax porch restoration requirements and eilminate the need for old photos. These revisions would allow homeowners greater flexibility with their home while also accomplishing the important goal of preserving the neighborhood's character.

    MIBS98 asked 3 days ago

    Hello Thank You for your comments.

    The design guideline are a draft and are not set in stone.

    Please free to attend one of the resident workshops:

    February 27th or March 5th.

    Historic Districts with much larger lots than the average lot in Norhill, were not granted a FAR of .5 and we believe a compromise can be made between .38 and .5, however the dialogue must take place.

    As it relates to 2-story garages, that is a deed restriction regulation that the city of Houston cannot enforce.

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    If the proposed design guidelines go through, they're gonna restrict property owners in the area. Here's what needs fixing before they become official. Picture this: most homeowners would be stuck with tiny increases in square footage, making it near impossible to do any meaningful renovations without hurting the resale value. We're saying bump it up to 0.5, which matches what's already been approved for some new constructions in Norhill and even what's allowed in neighboring areas like the Heights. Let homeowners match the setbacks of their existing homes for the second floor, with maybe a small setback in the rear for good measure. Then there's the issue of garages. If something happens like a fire or flood, homeowners should be able to rebuild without jumping through hoops. They shouldn't be forced to use some outdated standard or be left unable to recreate what they had before. The rules say no attached or two-story garages, but recent approvals from the Historical Commission say otherwise. A COA just to put up a fence? Talk about bureaucratic nonsense. Ditch that requirement and save everyone some time and hassle. Not being able to improve front porches is impractical. If you can show your home in an old catalog or point to similar houses nearby, that should be proof enough to make the necessary changes.

    YoungNorhillResident asked 3 days ago

    Hello and Thank You for your comments.

    There are historic districts with larger lots than Norhill and the HAHC did not allow FAR of .5, therefore I believe there needs to be conversations about compromise. The .38 is not set in stone, it is a part of the draft guidelines.

    Unfortunately, we cannot think of any home in the Heights where the setbacks are matched by the existing contributing structure. There may have been additions that were done prior to the district being created, however the heights require a hyphen or indention off of the rear existing corners.

    Also, the only two-story garages in Norhill that may have been approved already had one there. If that is not true, please provide the address and we can research this.

    Please feel free to attend one of the workshops on either February 27th or March 5th. More information will be provided.

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    These proposed guidelines for Norhill REALLY negatively impact all the neighborhood’s property owners' freedoms to an extreme extent. The living area ratios are really out of whack with the current market – the majority of the lots in Norhill fall into the 0.38x multiple, which maxes out at 2,280 square feet of living area. That’s nearly 100 square feet LESS that the average home being built in Houston for the past decade! If the ratio were bumped up to 0.50x it would help bring Norhill properties more in line with the rest of Houston construction and the general direction of home construction, meaning homeowners wouldn’t be paying through the nose for every renovation on a dollar per square foot basis relative to the rest of the market. Also, the nonsense with setbacks second-floor additions will cause headaches for homeowners trying to keep things looking normal. And why not allow attached or two-story garages? It's not like we're building apartment complexes here, just giving folks more flexibility for their properties (you know, that they own and should be allowed to live in as they decide). What happens if homeowners are trying to rebuild after disasters or renovate after extreme neglect (which is painfully common around here…)? Red tape would bog the process down for months or years. Let's make it easier for them to get back on their feet and restore homes to be improvements to the community, rather than continue to drag the neighborhood back into the last century. Finally, and I’m amazed I even need to say this, but porch restorations shouldn't require digging up old photos. Let's use common sense and let homeowners restore them in a way that fits with the neighborhood.

    Norhill Since '86 asked 3 days ago

    Hello and thank you for your comments.

    The guidelines are a draft and will be discussed in depth over the next couple of months. These are draft guidelines and not the final guidelines.

    As you are aware, the Norhill homes were built circa 1920, on substantially smaller lots than the modern homes that are being built today. Also, it is important to state that historic districts with lots larger than those in Norhill do not have a FAR of .5, and I am sure the HAHC will take that into consideration.

    Your deed restrictions do not allow two-story garages and the city of Houston does not regulate or enforce deed restrictions.

    There are no cases that we are aware of that guideline regulations have prevented construction for years. I am sorry you feel that you are being taken back to the last century and that is not the purpose of design guidelines nor the HAHC. The ordinance and 11 criteria are put in place to preserve the historic character of the homes and the neighborhoods, not exclusive to Norhill.

    Please feel free to attend the Norhill resident workshops either on February 27th or March 5th.

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    The proposed guidelines should be thoroughly reviewed before implementation as they will heavily restrict property owners' rights in Norhill. It's imperative to address these concerns: Increasing the proposed FAR to 0.5 is essential. A 0.38 FAR would severely limit homeowners, allowing only a modest increase in square footage. Recent HAHC approvals for similar constructions in Norhill indicate a higher FAR is reasonable. Allowing attached and two-story garages aligns with recent HAHC approvals and should be included in the design guidelines. Ensuring protection for existing structures is crucial. Homeowners should be able to rebuild based on the previous structure and not have to maintain and % in order to do so. Requiring a historic photograph for porch restoration is unnecessary. Homeowners should be allowed to restore their porch to match historically accurate designs without strict documentation requirements. Side and rear setback requirements for the 2nd floor should be reconsidered to allow homeowners flexibility in design.

    Clay Hughes asked 2 days ago

    Hello and Thank You for your comments.

    The guidelines are being thoroughly reviewed and they are only a draft. your input is important to us. However, it also must be pointed out that historic districts with lots larger than those of Norhill were not granted FAR of .5 by the HAHC. Yes, we agree that a higher FAR is reasonable, and all this can be negotiated.

    The two story garages are not allowed as per your deed restrictions, which the city of Houston does not regulate or enforce.

    Please feel free to attend the Norhill resident workshop either on February 27th and march 5th.

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    Before implementing the proposed guidelines in Norhill the HAHC should look at previous approvals of the following homes: 731 W. Temple, 802 W. Temple, 901 Key St, 907 Key St., and 725 W. Cottage. They all have FAR’s that exceed 0.38 and three of them have connected two story garages. This supports the FAR being increased to 0.5 to allow for meaningful improvements in square footage and that attached and two-story garages are in harmony with the neighborhood! Also, homeowners should be able to restore their porch based on historically accurate designs without strict documentation requirements.

    Elizabeth McCarthy asked 2 days ago

    Hello and Thank You for your comments.

    The design guidelines are drafts and are not legal documents at this time. It is also important to state that historic districts with larger lots than Norhill do not have FAR of .5, and the HAHC was involved in that process. 

    As it relates to two-story garages, that is covered in your deed restrictions and the city of Houston does not regulate nor enforce deed restrictions.

    The Historic Preservation Office takes the context area and previously existing conditions into consideration when it comes to porch restoration. 

    Please feel free to attend the Norhill residents workshop on either February 27th and March 5th.

Page last updated: 21 Feb 2024, 01:09 PM