Norhill Historic District

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Design Guidelines: Project Scope

As required by the City of Houston code of ordinances, the Houston Office of Preservation initiated a process to develop design guidelines for the Norhill Historic District.

The Norhill Historic District Design Guidelines are being 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

Please review the draft guidelines and let us know what you think. You may submit feedback and questions in the comment sections below.


Process and timeline

The Houston Office of Preservation (HOP) began working with the Norhill neighborhood in 2016 to develop a set of guidelines that would provide predictability to property owners and the community. Workshops and meetings were held to discuss the purpose, scope and details of proposed guidelines. The process was put on hold during the Covid pandemic. Last summer, the Norhill Neighborhood Association (NNA) asked the HOP to resume the process and submitted a revised draft that included measurable standards. The NNA hosted meetings to engage property owners in reviewing the draft restrictions.

The HOP is hosting meetings to review the latest draft and get comments from property owners in the district. When a significant number of property owners agree on the draft guidelines, the HOP will present them to the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission. The HAHC will consider the draft recommendations and vote request City Council approval or ask the HOP and the neighborhood to refine the guidelines.


NEXT MEETING:

Information will be posted soon.


Design Guidelines: Project Scope

As required by the City of Houston code of ordinances, the Houston Office of Preservation initiated a process to develop design guidelines for the Norhill Historic District.

The Norhill Historic District Design Guidelines are being 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

Please review the draft guidelines and let us know what you think. You may submit feedback and questions in the comment sections below.


Process and timeline

The Houston Office of Preservation (HOP) began working with the Norhill neighborhood in 2016 to develop a set of guidelines that would provide predictability to property owners and the community. Workshops and meetings were held to discuss the purpose, scope and details of proposed guidelines. The process was put on hold during the Covid pandemic. Last summer, the Norhill Neighborhood Association (NNA) asked the HOP to resume the process and submitted a revised draft that included measurable standards. The NNA hosted meetings to engage property owners in reviewing the draft restrictions.

The HOP is hosting meetings to review the latest draft and get comments from property owners in the district. When a significant number of property owners agree on the draft guidelines, the HOP will present them to the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission. The HAHC will consider the draft recommendations and vote request City Council approval or ask the HOP and the neighborhood to refine the guidelines.


NEXT MEETING:

Information will be posted soon.


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

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    These guidelines are very restrictive. We are not going to see people move into the neighborhood. Why are we making these changes now? Don’t we want to see progress?

    Alisa asked about 1 month ago

    Hello and Thank You for your comments.

    This has been going on for years, this is not something that just happened over night. Every historic district is set to get design guidelines at some point.

    To answer your question, some see this as progress. However, we do not expect everyone to agree.

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    Thank you for sharing the draft guidelines. My comments: 1) Rather than a firm restriction on 2 story garages, could we move to establishing acceptable guidelines for those structures. Fully agree with the comment below that 2-story garages are NOT garage apartments. The inability to have a study or playroom is needlessly limiting when many 2 story garages already exist in the neighborhood and can keep the 'harmony' with appropriate guidelines.

    Brianna asked about 1 month ago

    Hello and Thank you for your comments.

    Please take up any garage issues (garage apartments, two-story garages, etc.) with the Norhill Neighborhood Association. The Historic Preservation Office is going to allow you all (residents and NNA) to work that issue out amongst yourselves.

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    After attending last week's workshop (thanks to the city for hosting), I had a few recommendations for next steps: 1. Another meeting is necessary - I have owned a home in this neighborhood for five years and only heard about this in November. 2. The polling was great, but more options were needed - It would have been helpful to have an option for "do not address in the design guidelines" for some of the specifications. In particular, a resident raised the question of why have a restriction on building size if we are already restricting distance on the lot. It would be great to have this as an option in the polling. 3. Ground residents in the difference between deed restrictions and design guidelines and how this is an added layer of restrictions and approvals 4. A yes/no vote if Norhill wants to adopt design guidelines - While the meeting was focused on the specifics, it would be helpful for all residents to have the opportunity to weigh in on whether this is something that we actually want. Perhaps we could ask this as the last polling question at the end

    EHorn asked about 1 month ago

    Hello and Thank you for your comments and suggestions.

    We will surely take them into consideration moving forward.

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    I’m new to the neighborhood so I’m not an expert in the deed restrictions, but I’ve seen multiple responses claiming that 2nd story garage additions aren’t allowed. Where in the deed restrictions is that called out? I see no garage apartments, but that seems to be very different than a garage apartment.

    gddunton asked about 1 month ago

    Hello and Thank you for your comments.

    You will need to go to the Norhill Neighborhood Association to get the answers for the garage clarification. The Historic Preservation Office is going to remove themselves from that argument. We recommend that garage apartments, two-story garages, or anything dealing with garages and spaces above them, be discussed with the NNA.

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    I am in favor of the guidelines, and very opposed to changing the setbacks or square footage any further. As a recent transplant to Houston, this neighborhood is unique, and will retain it's value based upon what is already here; it is what attracted me to this neighborhood in particular. For more square footage and being closer to the street - so many other neighborhoods already provide this. By keeping the footprints as they are, will actually INCREASE the value of our properties.

    New to Houston asked about 1 month ago

    Thank You for your comments.

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    To Whom It May Concern. I am in favor, generally speaking of tge Design Guide Lines with the following 2 comments: 1) As far as building size is concerned, 1900 square feet maybe agreeable as far as a one story structure is concerned, but could be small for a 2-story structure. Maybe we shoyukd consider footprint as a more reasonable way. 2) I am totally, 100% opposed to the restriction of 2-story garages. Garage apartments are already prohibited. And while a 2 story garage could possibly be converted at a later stage, it is prohibited by the 2-residence prohibition already in existence in the deed restrictions. A 2-story garage is NOT a garage apartment. Kind regards

    Jorgen asked about 1 month ago

    Hello and thank you for your comments.

    As it relates to your first concern - it looks like there is a chance that this will change to provide more square footage for an addition. We are not sure what that number is, however we would like to know what your suggestions for square footage would be.

    The garage conversation is something that our office is looking into removing ourselves from. We would like the residents and the NNA to have that discussion, as it relates to that in the deed restrictions. 

    Kind Regards.

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    Thank you planning & development team for leading tonight’s meeting. The polls mainly focused on square footage & setbacks. Further polling with more specificity regarding garage apartments and attached garages seems to be needed. There are also other issues that need discussion/polling that were not covered tonight. What is the best way to make sure all changes are thoroughly discussed and not passed along for council vote without thorough feedback from the neighborhood? Although efficiency is important, we have concern that 2-3 meetings won’t be sufficient to discuss of the changes.

    Anna Kalmbach & Dylan Parker asked about 2 months ago

    Hello and Thank You for your comments.

    While we understand you all would like for us to poll about garages, what you saw at the workshop may be the extent of the garage polling. We are trying our best to gather the information for the NNA and pass that along to them. Due to the fact that your deed restrictions prohibit garage apartments, we are making an effort to avoid the battle between the homeowners and the NNA.

    The polling was based on the issues that were placed here in the comments section. If you would like to discuss your issues further, please place them here or you can email them to me. The only way we can discuss the issues is to hear them from you all and so far this seems to be a pretty helpful tool for us to gather that information.

    This is not going to the HAHC soon. 

    The workshops started back in 2016, thus this has been going on for a while and there have been numerous meetings prior to my involvement. We will meet until we feel we are close enough to move without issue.

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    Question……when I look down the street all the houses are lined up evenly with a standard set back from the street EXCEPT for the new builds ( one of which Roman highlighted in his presentation tonight). I want to see all houses, new and old, have the same street setback as their neighbors.

    Lynne Hoefer asked about 2 months ago

    Thank You for your comment. 

    The front setbacks in Norhill currently are between 15 ft and 20 ft. Some are different, but there could be a number of reasons why. We will make verify that the 15 ft setback from the property line is in the design guidelines.

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    In the responses to the comments, the City has asked for specific number suggestions for the guidelines. Below we outline specific suggestions for improvements. 1-2 Definitions and Suggested Changes The definition of “Carport” should be revised to be consistent with the side setbacks in Section 2-3e. The reference to R322 of the Houston Revisions of the IRC 2021 (the latest City codes as of January 2024) does not seem appropriate as there is no code restriction in that setback about Carports needing to be 5 feet from the property line. The side setbacks for a Garage and a Carport should be the same. The definition of “Harmony” should be revised to confirm that if a property is “in Harmony” per the Guidelines, then it is “in Harmony” per the deed restrictions. This will foster more consistent implementation of the restrictions and provide clarity for homeowners and prospective purchasers. The definition of “Living Area” should be revised to exclude garages, porches, stairs, and space under the stairs. None of these spaces provide actual living spaces for people in homes. Excluding these ancillary spaces allows flexibility as promoted by the Strategy Paper, pg. 44. These spaces do not contribute to the overall mass of a home. This definition will also be difficult to implement. Such a specific definition would require the City to conduct an intrusive inspection of homes to for compliance. For example, should the City need to inspect the inside of a home to measure any usable space under stairs? Should the City need to come in to see if the owners installed an air conditioning unit in the garage? Finally, please consider defining “garage apartment” to only pertain to rented space above garages. Such a definition could be applied to the deed restrictions to allow the building of second story garages (which are not rented out). 2-2a Residences Arguably, the biggest issue with the proposed guidelines is the Maximum Living Area. We propose increasing this ratio to 55%. This number is sufficient to prevent obtrusively large homes, while allowing enough flexibility to meet family needs. The Maximum Living Area is one of many requirements on these properties. We do not need this number to be strict in order to prevent overbuilding. We suggest using this flexible number in combination with the setbacks outlined herein (as well as those already in the deed restrictions). 2-2b Porches Large porches should not be counted as Living Area. Again, given the considerations and the prevailing need to accommodate growing families in our homes, the benefits of including porches are severely outweighed by the constraints. 2-2c. Garages, Enclosed Storage, and other Outbuildings. The comments have shown broad support for second-story garages. As suggested above, we should consider defining “garage apartments” in a way that allows more second-story garages to be built. Even if we will require a deed modification to allow the construction of new second-story garages, we should not impose new restrictions in these guidelines. We suggest removing the entire second paragraph of 2-2c. 2-3a Interior One-Story Addition. The 6 ft rear setback for one-story additions is unnecessarily restrictive. The City requires a 3 ft rear setback and many properties have easements less than 5 ft. Additionally, there are properties in Norhill that back up to commercial lots or other non-residential lots and can gain valuable living area without encroaching on our Norhill neighbors. We suggest that the minimum rear setback should be the greater of 3 ft and the property’s rear easement (as currently proposed for Garages and Carports. Please explain the purpose of “A First-Floor addition to the side of the house may not project more than 6 ft into the side yard or measure more than 15 ft wide, and may only be located on one side of the house.” This restriction seems very difficult to implement. For example, on my original structure, the back bedroom pushes into the side yard. If I were to create a side addition, would I be unable to connect the two given the width restrictions? This seems like a restriction that would be better left to simple easy to understand setbacks. We support allowing side additions to homes. However, this provision should be simplified and clarified. We suggest, “Side additions are allowed within the following setbacks, 3 ft min. Side setback, 12 ft. minimum side setback on driveway side, 6 ft rear setback, 20 ft front setback. 2-3b Interior Second Floor Setbacks To provide flexibility, we should remove the following: “No two-story addition should extend past the sides of the original structure.” Instead, we can rely on setbacks to prevent overbuilding and maintain clear, consistent guidance for homeowners. The 25-foot rear setback is too restrictive. We suggest revising to be a 12-foot rear setback and a 30-foot front setback. This provides ample room for a backyard and some breathing room between houses. Again, given the small lots, we need to balance overcrowding with our ability to house a family. The proposed setbacks strike a better balance and are strict enough to preserve the character of the neighborhood. 2-3e. Interior Lot Garage Construction/Outbuilding The 5-ft minimum between exterior walls of a garage and house should eliminated. We have smaller lots and need to be efficient with our spaces. Requiring a large setback between the garage and house has little benefit, but makes creating functional space difficult. We should consider reducing the front setback for garages to 45 feet through a deed amendment and these restrictions (for consistency). The 60-ft garage setback necessitates smaller back yards and dedicating roughly a third of our lots to cars. It would be more efficient to have the garages further up as it would allow people to use their back and side yards for more than just a driveway. 2-6d Dormers Dormers add style and beauty to these homes and should be allowed. These can also be used as an effective an non-obtrusive way to create more living space in small homes. Qualitative guidelines may be appropriate to conform to the character and historic style of the homes. 2-7a impervious cover It is unlikely that 55% impervious cover restriction significantly aids in the prevention of stormwater runoff. These lots have been compacted through construction and have little ability to soak up rainwater. We suggest increasing this number 70%. If the real reason behind this restriction is to protect green space, then please change to state so and change the restriction to directly address this concern. If 45% of space needs to be pervious to prevent stormwater and flooding issues (based on engineering studies that should be published), then serious changes need to be considered for these guidelines. To provide this much open space on a given lot requires families be able to expand their homes upward to achieve space and utility. Combining this strict limit on impervious cover with the parking requirements leaves very little flexibility for expansion in these homes. Reducing the parking requirement to one car per lot would allow more open space if that is a priority. We recommend removing the inclusion of packed gravel. Gravel is a more pervious alternative to concrete and does not require watering like grass. For these reasons it should be encouraged. Additionally, we suggest considering reasonable discounts to impervious area for lot materials that are not completely impervious (wood en decks, gravel, non-grouted paved walkways, etc.). this would encourage the selection of more pervious materials for parking and outdoor areas while still allowing for valuable use. 2-7b Parking We recommend removing the restriction on long-term parking a car in front of the setback line. “Longterm” is vague, leaving the enforcement of this provision open to arbitrary action. This is a needless restriction, and some people may prefer to use their lots for other uses than parking. We recommend changing this section to read: “All lots must be able to house one car off the street and behind the Front Setback Line.” Please consider an overview of the parking requirements in these guidelines and the deed restrictions. A 60 ft setback on garages combined with the requirement of parking two vehicles on a lot dedicates a large portion of these lots to cars. On balance, lots should be used for people, not cars. Allowing these garages to move up will allow shorter driveways and bigger backyards. Other changes to consider is removing the requirement of being able to park two cars behind the setback. This is a neighborhood chosen for walkability, we do not need to dedicate this much space to cars. 2-7c. Fences. We recommend removing the requirement that fences must be 80% open. This is a needless restriction. For example, we have dogs and would love to have them in the front yard. Frankly having such an open fence would encourage barking and escape attempts. If privacy is a major concern, then we should allow privacy fences to be 10 feet. This does not affect any historic features and the view from the street will be the same. This allows us to be denser while maintaining a sense of privacy. 3-4. Exemptions Fences of any size should not need NNA approval.

    M. & B. Guerinot asked about 2 months ago

    Hello and Thank you for your comments.

    The majority of your comments have been edited to reflect some of the changes you wish to see. 

    Also, it is hard to imagine any historic commission allowing 55% for FAR. This would mean the massing of structures exceeds the amount of green space on each site that chooses to do so. For instance, the Heights were not granted such a number and they have lots much bigger than the majority of the lots in Norhill. It would be irresponsible of the HOP to not speak against such a number.

    To sum up this response, a lot of the things you mentioned have been edited out or the guidelines as a whole. We would prefer to reveal them at the Norhill Resident Workshop. Please feel free to attend one of the 

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    I would like to build a second story garage office. I don’t want a bedroom up there, just flex space for an office. Space is limited in these charming historic bungalows, and we would like to extend our footprint while maintaining the historical integrity and timeless design aesthetic of Norhill.

    lizroberts406 asked about 2 months ago

    Hello and Thank you for your comment.

    The deed restrictions prohibit such a space, therefore we recommend you speak with the Norhill Neighborhood Association about second stories above your garage.

Page last updated: 12 Apr 2024, 01:23 PM