Fifteen years after the Dallas City Council ratified the Belmont Addition Conservation District, some neighbors have set out to amend construction rules within the district to preserve the historic Craftsman homes they say are still under threat.
Neighbors in a group called Amend Belmont Conservation District, or ABCD, hope to eliminate language that they say limits renovation work on Craftsman homes. The restrictions, for example, may make it difficult for homeowners to add a second story to their small, classic bungalows if they need more space or would like to increase their property value, said Geyden Sage, chair of Amend Belmont Conservation District.
“We can’t renovate our home or maximize our space,” she said. “We’re trying to remove that language all together so people can renovate (Craftsman homes) instead of tearing them down.”
Craftsman homes, which cropped up in the late 1800s and early 1900s, are known for exposed rafter tails and front and side gables. When the conservation district was created in 2004, a City of Dallas study found that it contained one of the largest collections of Craftsman-style homes in the country. More than 275 Craftsman homes existed, but that number has decreased more than 20 percent as homeowners tear them down and rebuild in the prairie style, Sage said.
“When you are a conservation district, the intent is to preserve the character, look and feel of the neighborhood,” she said. “It used to be a collection of prairies, Tudors and Craftsman, but we’re starting to look like a new development area. By restricting Craftsman, we don’t allow them to grow.”
Other neighbors oppose amending the conservation district and say Craftsman homes are built and remodeled all the time. Harley Cozewith, who has lived in a 1913 bungalow on Goliad Avenue since 2006, expanded about 700 square feet in 2016 by adding an upstairs bedroom and converting a downstairs bedroom into a master suite with a master bath and closet. Her home won the conservation district’s renovation award the following year.
“We had no problems getting our plans approved,” Cozewith said. “A beautifully renovated older home adds value to our neighborhood on so many levels. It supports home prices. It keeps the historic context. We don’t want that destroyed.”
Melissa Kingston, who spearheaded the movement to create the conservation district in 2001, urged neighbors in a Facebook post to think carefully before supporting the group’s efforts.
“The group behind this, which I know to be a small segment of our neighborhood, started this effort because they have constructed illegal structures – structures that do not comply with the BACD code and in some instances do not comply with City code – and now they want to amend the ordinance to cure their defaults,” she said. “That should never be the policy of the City of Dallas. With the conservation district, we have been able to protect the historic character of our neighborhood while allowing for more modern style and sized homes.”
Amend Belmont Conservation District submitted an application to the City to start discussing five items the group would like to change. District 14 Councilman Philip Kingston said City officials will meet with residents at two community meetings before deciding to proceed with the amendment. If accepted, Amend Belmont Conservation would need to obtain signatures from 58 percent of residents to make it legally permissible and send an amended version of the conservation district to the Dallas City Council for approval, Kingston said.
The process is expected to last about a year if taken to completion, Sage said. The first community meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. March 20 at Greenland Hills Methodist Church.
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