chapter V: THE DESIGN REVIEW PROCESS
The Design Guidelines contained in this manual (Section IV) and the West Chester Historic District Zoning Code (appendix C) form the basis for the review of applications that come before the HARB and Borough Council. The ordinance requires that No permanent sign or other structure within the West Chester Historic District may be constructed, altered or otherwise changed, in whole or part, nor may the exterior architectural character of any structure be altered until after an application for a building permit has been fully reviewed by the Historical and Architectural Review Board (HARB), recommended for a certificate of appropriateness by the HARB and approved by the Borough Council. Additionally, No structure within the West Chester Historic District may be demolished or removed, in whole or in part, until after the application for a building and/or demolition permit has been reviewed by the HARB and approved by the Borough Council. These provisions apply to all land, buildings and structures which are viewed or may be viewed from a public way within the boundaries of the West Chester Historic District. The HARB is an advisory board to Borough Council, and all HARB recommendations for a Certificate of Appropriateness require approval by Borough Council. Likewise, Borough Council may overturn the decisions of the HARB upon appeal by the applicant.
The design-review process consists of the following steps:
Generally, the design review process takes about one month to complete, and applicants must consider this timeframe when planning and scheduling their projects. For projects involving significant changes to structures within the Historic District, such as major facade alterations, construction of additions, new construction, and demolition, a pre-application review is highly recommended. Applicants should allow another month for this step. It is also recommended that applicants retain the services of a design professional for major projects within the Historic District.
The pre-application process enables the applicant to present the basic concepts of the proposed project in sketch form for feedback and informal discussion with the HARB. During pre-application review, the applicant can provide a single design proposal or present several design options for discussion. The pre-application review process saves the applicant the time and expense of developing a complete submission for a final design that may not be approved, and a favorable preliminary design streamlines the formal review process.
B. APPLICATION SUBMISSION
The completed application form.
An incomplete application may not be considered by the HARB.
A copy of the Application for Certificate of Appropriateness may be obtained from the Boroughs Department of Building, Housing & Codes Enforcement.
C. HARB REVIEW
Following the review of an application, the HARB will take one of the following actions: 1) recommend a Certificate of Appropriateness for the application as presented, 2) recommend a Certificate of Appropriateness with specified conditions, 3) recommend that the application be denied, 4) continue the application because of the incompleteness of the application, or 5) continue the application at the request of the applicant. The HARB diligently strives to avoid the denial of an application by suggesting design alternatives, and by allowing the applicant to revise the design and present again at a future meeting. Every decision made by the HARB becomes part of the public record. For approved and denied applications, a written Certificate of Appropriateness is provided to Borough Council for approval.
D. BOROUGH COUNCIL REVIEW
After reviewing the application and HARBs recommendation for a Certificate of Appropriateness, the PZBID Committee may recommend approval of a Certificate of Appropriateness to the full Council or send it to Council without recommendation. During Councils work session, the Chair of the PZBID Committee presents each application for discussion by Council. Borough Council then decides if the Certificate of Appropriateness should be placed on the consent agenda for approval at the voting session or if it should be held for further discussion at the voting session. Council officially votes to approve or disapprove each of HARBs recommendations for a Certificate of Appropriateness at its voting session. All of Borough Councils decisions are part of the public record.
Following Councils vote, the Boroughs Department of Building, Housing & Codes Enforcement sends a letter to each applicant informing him or her of Councils decision. For an approved application, the letter authorizes the applicant to apply for a building permit to perform the proposed work as presented or with specified conditions. If Borough Council disapproves the application, the letter indicates the reasons for disapproval.
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