Today at Stewart, we’re saying “Congratulations” to Katie Hamilton for her appointment to the Historic Preservation Committee (HPC). Since many of us live and work in Durham, we also want to say a big “Thanks!”
Hamilton was appointed to the committee by the Durham County Commissioners and is now tasked with reviewing proposed modifications to properties that are historical in nature.
Along with eight other members, who are appointed by the City Council, the Board of County Commissioners, and the mayor, Hamilton judges all applications for property modifications according to certain criteria that have been set by the County Commissioners and City Council. Some of the properties in question are local historic landmarks that receive tax credits and are held to a higher standard of historic preservation for that credit. Other properties lie within local historic districts and need to meet certain criteria to ensure that any modifications to the property or structures do not negatively affect the neighborhood’s character.
This all-volunteer committee is made up of at-large seats and professional seats that the state requires, including an architect, a historian, a real estate agent, a lawyer, local citizens, and a landscape architect, the seat that Hamilton fills. These professionals give their time and expertise to consider the proposed changes, make site visits if needed, and make decisions that affect the way Durham grows.
After earning her Master of Urban Design degree, Hamilton moved to Durham and has now found a way to give back to the community while learning more about it at the same time.
Hamilton admits she hadn’t even considered being on the Planning Commission until she was asked by a staff member if she’d be interested.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn what’s happening in Durham outside of our projects and also to get a better understanding of the development process for historic properties,” she explained.
Her education in landscape architecture and urban design give her the insight needed to understand the nuances of proposed modifications. Allowing improper development can have a detrimental effect on a community, while proposed changes like adding new buildings, signs, porches and additions, artwork, and landscaping can have a positive effect that reaches beyond the property’s boundaries.
In one recent meeting, the committee reviewed a project that concerns a dilapidated house in one of the historic districts that is struggling economically compared to the rest of downtown Durham. The committee was very excited to see plans to completely refurbish the home’s interior and restore the façade, an improvement that will undoubtedly inspire positive growth in all directions out from this home’s front door.
As construction and design professionals, we know the value of thoughtful development and attractive design in the context of a community. For residents of the city in question, the value that the volunteer members of the Historic Preservation Committee bring when considering development projects in Durham is priceless.