The City of Stillwater adopted its preservation ordinance in 1987 to help protect the character and nature of the community and its historic resources. With few modifications occurring in last 35 years, the City's Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) regulations are antiquated and do not reflect community goals and objectives. Additionally, several other code modifications create a disjointed preservation program. Within Stillwater's municipal boundaries are a National Register-listed historic district, a Neighborhood Conservation District, an eligible archaeological district, over one dozen structures and sites individually listed in the National Register, as well as numerous design review districts. In a span of 30 years, the City has developed five different sets of design guidelines. While four have been adopted, only three are frequently utilized and one set of residential design guidelines has not been considered for adoption. With these guidelines in place, there are still certain designated properties, or those located in an established design review district, for which no guidelines exist. Additionally, these design guidelines are not specifically tied to the HPC's enabling ordinance.
This complex and disconnected system for the preservation of Stillwater sites and structures has made it difficult for the public to understand and for the HPC to administer. Consequently, City of Stillwater staff are challenged when assisting elected and appointed officials as well as property owners through specific application review processes and permit approvals. Simply put, the City's fragmented preservation program has left the City and its HPC in a vulnerable state.
The City received a CLG grant to conduct a detailed review of specific City Code Sections pertaining to the HPC and amend the ordinance to clean up code inconsistencies, strengthen the connection between the City Code and the design guidelines, to better define HPC activities, including demolition review, and to strengthen the connection between HPC activities and the City's Comprehensive Plan goals and policies. The final step was to combine all adopted and draft design guidelines into a single reference document that would tie established design guidelines to the standards set forth in the City Code.
This project cleaned up the code inconsistencies and combined all preservation regulations into a single, uniform ordinance. The regulations are now accompanied by a uniform design manual addressing construction in historic districts, signage and streetscape standards, and guidelines for new construction in Stillwater's historic neighborhoods. This was momentous for the City, equally as important as some of Stillwater's pioneering preservation efforts. The project will help guide the City's preservation actions for the coming decades.