Year of Publication
Martin School of Public Policy and Administration
Master of Public Administration
Beginning with Fayette County’s first historic district in 1958, the process of assigning historic zoning status to qualifying neighborhoods was seen as a viable option for preserving local built cultural resources. More than a communicative symbol, H-1 districting limits dramatic exterior changes and the demolition of structures certified as contributing to the unique character of Lexington, KY. Guided by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government’s Division of Historic Preservation and Board of Architectural Review, the program currently encompasses 1,851 buildings over 14 districts.
In order to carry out the goal of preservation, historic districting in Lexington is applied in a blanketing manner accompanied by a series of regulations. Encompassing a continuous flow of parcels in a certified region, H-1 zoning pertains to all properties, regardless of age, within a district’s boundary. Applicable to specific exterior changes, the conditional requirements necessitate an official sign off by a government official before an alteration or rehabilitation may be initiated. Approval comes in the form of a “Certificate of Appropriateness.” In order to receive a Certificate of Appropriateness, the proposed changes must meet specified parameters.
These defining requirements are intended to preserve a neighborhood’s historic character and restrictions are applied to the type and style of material that can be used. As such, H-1 zoning can unintentionally raise maintenance costs. In 2006, the historic designation practice came under public scrutiny when citizens and local government officials clashed over a proposal to assign H-1 zoning to the adjoining neighborhoods of Hollywood Terrace and Mount Vernon. Home owners fearing a limitation to exercise their private property rights protested the zone change, while preservation proponents championed the method as a way to save unique examples of architectural style.
No argument in the debate over the recent proposed districting addressed the possible price effect H-1 could have on property values. Using a hedonic price analysis, this study reveals that for property values assessed in 2003, a historic district location added a 19% to 31% increase to the value of a residence. Age within a historic district mattered as well, with older homes benefiting from H-1 districting the most. The models considered a range of other attributes that impact a property’s worth, such as age, square footage, and amenities, in addition to the specific application of historic zoning.
This type of analysis brings to surface several important considerations. As a majority of historic districts are located in Lexington’s downtown area, such valuation increases can impact the availability of affordable housing within the region’s urban core. If infill and redevelopment of vacant land are goals of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, then historic districts demand careful approach. Additionally, from the standpoint of local government, bestowing historic zone status represents a potential revenue source to be derived from increased property taxes. This report confirms that historic zoning does have a substantial price effect on residential housing, a finding that lends itself to further reflection by public officials and citizens alike.
Vogel, Suzann, "An Impact Study of Local Historic District Overlays on Property Values in Fayette County, KY" (2007). MPA/MPP Capstone Projects. 178.