Making Sense of Historic Heights Design Guidelines
If you have been considering purchasing, building or even renovating a home in Houston Heights, you need to be aware of the Historic Guidelines that outline what you can and cannot do with your home within the various pockets of the area. Here, you will gain some insight to help you navigate your way through the districts and make heads or tails of their requirements.
Currently, there are 7 mapped Historic Districts within the Heights; they are as follows: Woodland Heights, Houston Heights East, West,and South, Norhill, Freeland and Germantown. Though all of these historic districts require a Certificate of Appropriateness prior to doing any external construction (including repair and renovation), only 3 of these districts actually have defined, written guidelines: Houston Heights East, West and South. At this point, the remaining 4 districts do not have historic guidelines per se but if you follow the established guidelines of Historic Heights E/W/S, you have a good chance of passing. But remember, since there is no guideline, the review will be subjective, that isn't to say the Board will not be cooperative it just doesn't have a set of guidelines to go by for those specific districts.
For the most part, internal renovations do not require a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA), an exception could be if you encounter shiplap in your home. Shiplap cannot be removed from the home; however, it can be covered with sheetrock. And windows are considered external construction and do require the approval of the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission (HAHC). If you are unsure if a renovation you're considering requires approval, contact the Historic Preservation Office before beginning any work.
Before submitting a request for a COA, it is important that you refer to any available deed restrictions to be sure your build or revisions comply, then, where applicable, refer to the written guidelines for your area. If there are no guidelines, let the deed restrictions be your guide.
Norhill has a neighborhood association so their deed restrictions are fairly explicit and organized. Germantown and Freeland do not seem to have written deed restrictions, so, here is where it might be most ambiguous. My suggestion would be that if you are in Germantown, refer to the Woodland Heights Deed restrictions and if in Freeland, refer to the Historic Heights Guidelines for reference.
As a Houston Realtor serving this community, I have to keep up on these issues. That makes me a good resource as well; so feel free to contact me and l can help you determine if your desired changes will be faced with resistance. Do not go by what others have done in the past - the guidelines are not static. They do get revised.
Note, not every structure in the historic district is a contributing structure. If you want to know if a home is considered contributing, you want to go to the inventory within your district and check.
Deed Restrictions and Historic Guidelines: