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Historic District Questions and Answers

The Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission shall herein be referred to simply as the "Commission".

    Why become a Historic District?

  1. To provide protection: The community is currently faced with a number of serious threats including the proposed widening of Church Lane, the residential and commercial development of under- and un-utilized land, possible destruction of certain "historic" properties, crime, property upkeep, etc. Although becoming a historic district in and of itself will not prevent any of the above problems it will, in fact, give our Group significantly more leverage in addressing ALL of these issues systematically. We will have much less leverage if we attack these issues as independent problems rather than creating a vision for what our neighborhood will look like in the future.

  2. To create a renewed sense of pride: There is an indisputable sense of pride and status that is associated with living in a historic district. There are currently only 7 historic districts in Baltimore County and we would be the only one in the Liberty Road corridor. Fieldstone would be on the map as an important place.

  3. To preserve our history and the character of our neighborhood: The Fieldstone Community has a rich history that was very important in the development of Baltimore County. Our heritage and the distinctiveness of the architecture should be preserved for future generations.

  4. To improve property values: A 1999 study of property values in Maryland Historic Districts reported that properties within Historic District boundaries appreciated in value 29% faster than neighboring properties just outside the Historic District.

    Although these are the primary reasons for becoming a historic district, there are also other benefits, as well such as State tax credits for home improvements (refer to the sections of this packet regarding Tax Credits). In addition, as a Historic District we would be able to apply to the Maryland Historical Trust for grant money for various capital improvements.

    Will the Commission have the authority to tell me what I can and can not do to my own property?

    In a sense, yes, although the rules are not as restrictive as many people believe. The Commission would be charged with the responsibility of approving or denying any exterior alterations to your property. You would be required to maintain the existing character of the property as closely as possible. Herein lies the "protection" referred to above. Everyone in the district is afforded this protection. Some specific examples follow.

    If I vote not to be included in the Historic District will I still be required to get approval from the Commission for my home projects?

    One of the requirements of being a Historic District is having the support and agreement of enough property owners within the district that would comprise at least 75% of the total acreage. Even if you vote against being in the Historic District you may be captured within the district boundaries if the necessary support is in place from enough property owners. In that event, you would be required to abide by the laws relating to Historic Districts and would therefore need to seek approval from the Commission depending on the project.

    I have original wooden shutters that need to be replaced. Will I have to replace them with wooden shutters?

    In the spirit of maintaining the exterior character of the home we would believe the answer to be yes. However, if you already have shutters that had previously replaced your original wooden shutters and they are not themselves wood then you would not be required to replace them with wood. Anything about the architecture of the house that has already been altered you would not be required to "bring back to original condition".

    I have a slate roof that needs to be replaced Will I have to replace it with slate?

    This is one area where the Commission has made exceptions because of the very high cost of slate. They have in the past approved asphalt shingle roofs that are architecturally accented to look like slate.

    I want to redo my kitchen and bathrooms. Will I have to obtain approval from the Commission?

    No. This work is inside the house and does not change the architectural features of the exterior. There would be no review of the design as part of Historic District requirements. You may be pleased to find out, however, that State tax credits would apply to both exterior and interior work provided that your property is "contributing property" (refer to the Tax Credits section).

    I want to add a deck to my house. Isn't being in a Historic District going to add more red tape?

    Yes, a little. In order to build a deck, or other major structural modification, you need a building permit (even today). When you apply for the building permit it must also be reviewed by the Commission to determine if the proposed structure or alteration is consistent with the architecture of your house. In an effort to expedite and streamline this process, we intend to create the Fieldstone Historic Preservation Committee. This committee will be made up of Group members and will exist to help residents with all of the administrative issues related to meeting the requirements under Historic District regulations.

    How long would this review take?

    Currently, your building permit is reviewed within 10 working days by the County Permits Office. The Commission has up to 45 days to make a decision. If a decision isn't made within 45 days, the permit is automatically issued. You would get the ok on your deck, or other alteration, if it could be designed to harmonize with your house. The Commission meets on the second Thursday of each month.

    A developer just purchased and wants to subdivide the property next to mine and they intend to build a new home. What if they decide to build a very inexpensive modern home that is out of character in this community?

    The subdivision itself would have to be reviewed by the Commission. Furthermore, any new structures being built would have to meet the same "compatibility" requirements as existing structures.

    What if I am in the Historic District and I complete a project that was never reviewed or approved?

    If you have any doubt as to whether approval is needed for any planned exterior work you could contact the Fieldstone Historic Preservation Committee which will help you to deal with the Commission if approval is, in fact, needed. Work performed without the required approval is against the law, and owners found in violation are subject to fines and may be required to undergo the very costly process of reversing the unapproved work.

    What happens if I have a newer home and live in the district? If I need to replace my
    vinyl siding or my shingle roof?

    All "like-kind" replacements, such as replacing vinyl siding with vinyl siding, does not require approval. If you have questions about your project, you can call the Historic Fieldstone Board for help.

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