City of Lewes, DE
Sussex County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
A. 
These regulations are applicable to structures used for residential purposes within the Residential Low-Density (Historic), Residential Beach (Historic), Residential Medium-Density (Historic), Limited Commercial (Historic) and Town Center (Historic) Zoning Districts, hereafter referred to as the "Historic District." Because structures in the Historic District are individual in their location, size, style, and history, the Lewes HPC will consider each property as a unique entity and make decisions according to Chapter 197 of the City Ordinance with consideration of the Standards of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
[Amended 12-9-2013]
B. 
The purpose of this article shall be to accomplish the following:
(1) 
To assist in preserving the historic character and the historic fabric of the City of Lewes.
(2) 
To safeguard the heritage of the City by preserving the elements which reflect the cultural, social, economic, political or architectural history of the City.
(3) 
To promote the use and preservation of the values as established by the Lewes Comprehensive Plan.
(4) 
To recommend alteration or new construction in keeping with the Historic District.
(5) 
To recommend restoration rather than demolition of contributing structures or historic properties.
(6) 
To encourage the proper maintenance, preservation and, when necessary, alteration of structures in the Historic District.
C. 
Definitions. In this article, the following definitions shall be applicable unless the context clearly indicates to the contrary:
ALTERATION(S)
Any activity requiring a building permit, the approval of the Lewes Building Official, and/or any change in the exterior appearance (other than maintenance) or structural change, including but not limited to construction, reconstruction, renovation, modification, alteration, moving or demolition of a noncommercial structure within the Historic District of the City of Lewes.
BUILDING HEIGHT, ESTABLISHED
Subject to approval by the Historic Preservation Commission pursuant to this article, the height of any single-family dwelling located in the Historic District and in public view may be increased to the same height as any other existing single-family dwelling within 100 feet of the front property line, on the same side of the street and within the same block. An exception to the height limit of 30.5 feet may be granted by the Historic Preservation Commission, if recommended by the Building Official, to accommodate architectural features of a roof or roofline. A flat roofline beyond the 30.5-foot limit shall not be grounds for granting an exception. Upon confirmation by the Building Official that all applicable requirements are met. an addition to an existing single-family structure that is located within the Historic District, but will not be in public view, may be built to the height of the existing structure to maintain existing rooflines and architectural features. No structure shall exceed the height of 36 feet.
[Amended 7-9-2012]
COMMERCIAL STRUCTURE/SITE
Any structure or site which is currently used primarily for commercial activities and not primarily for residential uses.
CONTRIBUTING STRUCTURES
Structures that are judged to add to the Historic District's sense of time, place and historic development under criteria established by the HPC,[1] including historical significance, integrity and context. Such structures are so designated because they meet an architectural test (i.e., compatible with surrounding buildings or represent an architectural style identified with Lewes' history) and a longevity test (built on or before December 31, 1940).
DEMOLITION
Destruction, razing, commencement of the work or steps of total or partial destruction with the purpose of completing the same; includes any willful neglect in the maintenance and repair of a structure that threatens to result in substantial deterioration of the exterior features or the structural integrity of the building.
HISTORIC DISTRICT
An area of the City of Lewes identified and designated as having historic importance. The Historic District is shown on the City of Lewes Zoning Map[2] as a series of zoning districts characterized as "historic."
HISTORIC PROPERTIES
Noncommercial structures and sites, public rights-of-way or areas designated by City Council as having importance in the history of the City of Lewes as listed in Appendix B. [NOTE: Appendix B (List of Historic Structures) is on file in the City Offices.] These properties may be within or not within the designated "historic" zoning districts.
IN PUBLIC VIEW
That portion of a structure that is visible, or could be visible in the absence of a fence or landscaping, from the section of a public right-of-way or public street upon which the dwelling fronts. If the dwelling is located on more than one street, then that portion of a structure that is visible, or could be visible in the absence of a fence or landscaping, from any section of a public right-of-way or public street abutting a property line of the property on which the structure exists.
MAINTENANCE/REPAIR
Ordinary repairs and maintenance, including design, materials, features or finishes of a structure which do not alter the exterior appearance of the structure and have no material effect on the historical, archaeological or architectural significance of the structure. Paint color is included in this definition regardless of the effect on exterior appearance.
MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL
Hereinafter known as "City Council."
NONCONTRIBUTING STRUCTURE
Structures that do not add to the Historic District's sense of time, place and historic development. Such structures are so designated because they are not listed or pending to become listed on the National Register of Historic Places or do not meet either an architectural test (i.e., compatible with surrounding buildings or represent an architectural style identified with Lewes' history) or longevity test (built on or before December 31, 1940).
OUTBUILDING
A term used to refer to all nonresidential structures on a site, including any accessory structure.
RESIDENTIAL STRUCTURE
Any structure or site currently used primarily for residential living.
RHYTHM
The rhythm of a structure and its components is the spacing or repetition of architectural elements or details. The regularity, frequency and placement of doors, windows, porches and ramps and their placement within a facade is a type of rhythm. Rhythm between adjoining structures can exist when building types are repeated along a streetscape.
SCALE
Scale is the relationship of the architectural mass of the structure in the context of the streetscape.
STREETSCAPE
The visual appearance of a street formed by the location and size of buildings, walkways, and other facilities.
STRUCTURE
A combination of materials to form a construction for use, occupancy, or ornamentation, including but not limited to buildings, sheds, outbuildings listed in Appendix B. fences, storage tanks, signs, bulkheads, jetties, groins, whether installed on, above, or below the surface of land or water. [NOTE: Appendix B (List of Historic Structures) is on file in the City Offices.]
[Amended 7-9-2012]
[1]:
Editor's Note: The Historic Preservation Commission.
[2]:
Editor's Note: The Zoning Map is on file in the City offices.
A. 
There is hereby established a commission to be called the "Historic Preservation Commission" (hereafter "HPC").
B. 
The HPC shall consist of seven members to be appointed by the Mayor of the City of Lewes, subject to confirmation by a majority of the elected members of the City Council for a term of three years. Appointments shall be made with consideration of the diverse talents and communities represented in Lewes; consideration for appointments shall be given to residents who possess knowledge or experience in architectural design and historic preservation. At least four members shall be residents of and have legal or equitable title to property in the Historic District, and all members shall be residents of and have legal or equitable title to property in or be leaseholders of public lands within the City of Lewes.
C. 
A member of City Council may and a City Building Official shall be ex officio members of the HPC. An ex officio member may exercise all the powers of the regular members of the HPC except that he/she shall not have a vote. No ex officio member shall hold an office on the HPC.
D. 
The HPC shall elect annually a Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, and a Secretary from among its own members and may utilize experts, clerks and such other assistance that its fiscal appropriations may permit. The HPC may also appoint, by and with the prior approval of the City Council, a custodian of its plans and records who may be the City Manager or his/her designee or a Building Official.
E. 
The HPC shall establish its own rules and procedures and determine the times of its meetings. All meetings and actions of the HPC shall be open to the public except appropriate executive sessions. All records of the HPC shall be public except those otherwise required to be confidential.
F. 
The HPC shall schedule monthly meetings. If no agenda items are available or requested 10 working days prior to the time of the scheduled meeting, such meeting may be canceled. An agenda item may be withdrawn at any time up to and including the opening of a scheduled meeting; however, if such matter has been withdrawn prior to the meeting and it is the only matter for that agenda, the meeting may be canceled.
[Amended 12-9-2013]
G. 
The HPC will hear all applications that meet the above criteria at its regularly scheduled meetings. The Chair will establish the meeting agenda for reviewing applications, has the right to modify the sequence when necessary, and, in unusual circumstances, has the right to call special meetings of the commission with seven days' prior notice.
[Amended 12-9-2013]
H. 
Chair/staff review. In certain circumstances, the HPC Chairman or a HPC commissioner appointed by the Chairman, Building Official, and the Assistant Building Official may decide to approve an HPC application without a formal hearing. A Chair/staff review shall be used for routine and minor Historic District construction applications whose costs are estimated at less than $25,000. The requests may include such items as the addition or replacement of fences, window replacements, and other projects where the HPC has a history of approving similar projects using the same materials.
[Amended 12-9-2013]
A. 
Before the construction, alteration, reconstruction, moving or demolition of any dwelling, residence or related structures on property within the Historic District or on historic properties not within the Historic District that would affect the exterior appearance of a structure visible or intended to be visible from an adjacent public way, the owner, agent or representative proposing to construct or change shall file with the Building Official of the City of Lewes an application for permission from the HPC to construct, build, alter, reconstruct, move, demolish or make the addition.
B. 
Actions not requiring review by the HPC. Ordinary repairs, maintenance, and replacement that do not constitute a change to the appearance of the structure include:
(1) 
Repair and/or replacement of existing windows and doors, using the same material, including the installation of storm windows that will not alter the exterior appearance of the structure.
(2) 
Maintenance, repair, and/or replacement of existing roof material, involving no change in the design, scale, material, or appearance of the structure.
(3) 
Repair and/or replacement of existing roof structures, such as cupolas, dormers and chimneys, using the same materials that will not alter the exterior appearance of the structure.
(4) 
Repair and/or replacement of existing shingles, clapboards, or other siding, using the same materials, and maintaining the exterior appearance of the structure.
(5) 
Replacement or repairs to existing shutters, fences, or retaining walls, using the same materials for those items being repaired or replaced.
(6) 
Change of paint color.
C. 
Application and approval procedures.
(1) 
The applicant shall apply for a building permit; if the proposed site is in the Historic District, the Building Official shall notify the applicant that his/her project must be approved by the HPC (unless the project falls under Subsection B above) and shall give him/her an HPC application and a "user friendly" brochure describing the application process.
(2) 
For the initial application, the applicant shall fill out the application form, and attach eight copies that include 1) a site plan identifying all existing and new structures, 2) plan and elevation drawings of the proposed change, construction, alteration, or modification, 3) a description of the type and texture of the materials to be used for the exterior, 4) current photographs of the property to include front, side, and/or rear street views if applicable, 5) current photographs of adjacent and neighborhood properties, including the streetscape of both sides of the street on which the subject property is located. A three-dimensional drawing is recommended, but not required, for new house construction and/or a significant alteration of an existing structure. An application is deemed complete when these items have been submitted. After the review process is completed, the Building Official will return six sets of plans to the applicant and retain two for City records. When the application is for demolition of all or part of a structure, a report from a licensed professional engineer is strongly recommended.
[Amended 12-9-2013]
(3) 
The HPC will meet at regular intervals to ensure timely consideration of all applications pending before the HPC. Completed applications submitted to the Building Official two weeks (10 working days) prior to a regular scheduled meeting will be heard at that next scheduled meeting. Applicants or their designee must attend the HPC meeting at the time their application(s) is heard.
(4) 
The HPC shall endeavor to arrive at a decision at the first meeting at which the application is presented; however, if the HPC decides that it needs more information or time in which to make a decision, it shall either place the application on the agenda for the next meeting or schedule a special meeting. The HPC shall grant or deny the application as expeditiously as possible, but in no event later than the second meeting at which the application is on the agenda and the applicant appears, except when the application is for demolition (see § 197-58D); failure to act within said time frame shall be deemed to be approval of the application as submitted; however, an extension may be granted if agreed to by both the applicant and the Commission.
(a) 
If an applicant or a member of the public has information, evidence or testimony that contradicts the current designation of contributing or noncontributing, or has information about the history or other information that could materially affect the decisionmaking process of Commission members, the HPC shall consider that information, evidence or testimony before addressing the application. Such information shall be presented to the HPC as a notarized statement, or a copy of official document(s), and shall be made available to the Building Official, HPC, and applicant at least five working days before the scheduled meeting.
(b) 
If the members of the Commission, by vote of the Commission, determine that additional time is needed to digest the new information, the decision will be postponed for one meeting and the requirement for a decision at the end of the second meeting at which the application is considered shall be suspended.
(5) 
If, after review of the application by the Building Official, he/she determines that the proposed activity will require a variance, the Building Official shall notify the applicant and provide information on the process for application to the Board of Adjustment. If no application to the Board of Adjustment is made by the applicant within 30 days after notice has been given by the Building Official, the application shall be deemed to have been withdrawn. However, if the applicant desires to have the HPC review an application prior to applying to the Board of Adjustment, the applicant shall request the Building Official to forward the application to the HPC.
(6) 
The HPC may either grant approval, grant approval with conditions, or deny the application. A denial shall include the reasons that the proposal does not meet the criteria in Article VI, § 197-59, Criteria; standards. The applicant shall have the opportunity to resubmit his/her application with modifications; such resubmissions shall meet the same requirements as the original. If the second submission of the application is denied, the applicant may either modify the application for another submission or appeal the denial to the Board of Adjustment. In no event may the HPC make recommendations for changes that will require violation of other requirements of this chapter.
(7) 
Written notice of the decision of the HPC will be forwarded promptly by the HPC to the applicant and to the Building Official. The notice will inform the applicant to meet with the Building Official to complete the application for a building permit. Approval shall be valid for one year for the approved project; if the project is commenced but not completed before the end of that period, the owner shall apply to the Building Official for an extension that may not exceed an additional period of one year.
(8) 
Substantive changes to the HPC-approved project prior or during construction shall require review and approval by the HPC. For such changes, the applicant shall submit one copy of the original application and a description of the proposed changes as well as any supporting documentation to illustrate the effect or noneffect of such proposed changes. Consideration of such changes shall be placed at the top of the HPC's agenda at the next regularly scheduled meeting or may be considered for approval by a Chair/staff review.
[Amended 12-9-2013]
D. 
Demolition or removal. If the structure or any part thereof is deemed to be "contributing" and therefore has historic and/or architectural significance, no demolition or removal of the structure from the premises may take place until after an initial meeting with the HPC and a subsequent public hearing. Presentation of a conceptual plan for reuse of the property shall be required prior to the approval to move and/or demolish the structure. Efforts may be taken to either mitigate or to eliminate the demolition or removal through informal discussions among the applicant, the Chair of the HPC, and the City Building Official. In addition, the HPC may delay its final decision for up to an additional 60 days over and above the usual two-meeting requirement for a decision in order to obtain an independent opinion from a licensed professional engineer regarding the structural integrity of the property. A final decision on demolition or removal must be rendered no later than 120 days after the initial application unless delayed by federal, state or local holidays, severe weather or other natural disasters, emergencies, or unless an extension is agreed to by the applicant and the HPC. If the structure is noncontributing, the HPC may address the application for demolition or removal without a hearing.
E. 
Interior features. The HPC shall consider only exterior features and shall not consider interior arrangements except to the extent that an interior alteration affecting the exterior is required by law or disability of owner or tenant.
F. 
Designation of historic properties. Owners of property outside the boundaries of the Historic District may request his/her/their property be designated an historic property. Before any such designation may be assigned, specific procedures, information required and recordation procedures and requirements shall have been determined. Such procedures shall include reference to the guidelines of the United States Department of the Interior (see HPC bylaws and procedures).
G. 
Appeals. Any person aggrieved by a decision rendered by the HPC shall have the right to appeal to the Board of Adjustment of the City of Lewes.
A. 
Criteria. In reviewing the plans for any construction, change, or demolition, the HPC shall give consideration to:
(1) 
Historic or architectural value and significance of the structure and its relationship to the historic value of the surrounding area.
(2) 
Relationship of the exterior architectural features of the structure to the remainder of the structure and to the surrounding neighborhood. Distinctive stylistic features or examples of skilled craftsmanship shall be preserved, if possible.
(3) 
General compatibility of exterior design, arrangement, texture and materials proposed to be used with other structures contributing to the established character of the Historic District of Lewes.
(4) 
When application is made to demolish a structure or any part thereof, the impact of its removal from the area in which it is located, and its structural condition and the economic feasibility of alternatives to the proposed demolition.
(5) 
When application is made to move an historic structure, the potential loss of history to its original site and to the Historic District as a whole, and the reasons for not keeping the structure at its present location.
(6) 
The effect of the structure on the health, safety and general welfare of the City.
(7) 
Other factors that the HPC deems to be pertinent, consistent with the City Code, include the following:
(a) 
Facade treatment. The exterior features of all buildings should be visually and physically compatible with those facades surrounding them.
(b) 
Height. New and renovated structures should be in harmony with the streetscape.
(c) 
Proportion. The relationship between the width and height of the front elevation of a structure should be compatible to adjacent structures. Proportion is also the relationship of the different elements of the building itself, including but not limited to additions, porches, windows, and doors.
[Amended 12-9-2013]
(d) 
Rhythm. The rhythm of the streetscape and building with its components should be considered as one of the criteria.
[Amended 12-9-2013]
(e) 
Scale. Since the scale of the City of Lewes is intimate in nature, any building contrary to that of the streetscape will be deemed to be out of place.
(8) 
When owners of structures in the Historic District that have been or are designated as "noncontributing" make application to the HPC for approval for alteration or demolition, the HPC evaluation shall be based on the potential impact on the streetscape setting of the property, rather than the potential impact on the property itself. When owners of structures in the Historic District designated as "contributing structures" make application to the HPC for alteration or demolition, preserving the property will be the HPC's primary criterion in evaluating the application. The HPC may require the applicant to submit both financial and construction details in support of any proposed demolition.
(9) 
A proposed new structure or any alteration to an existing structure or historic property shall conform to the City Code. However, it is the intent of the HPC, consistent with its purpose [§ 197-56B(1)] to assist in preserving the historic character and the historic fabric of the City of Lewes, to work in conjunction with applicants to arrive at the most desirable and appropriate outcome of their application to maintain harmony within the streetscape. To this end, the HPC may focus on height, rhythm, scale and proportion as issues that the applicant will be asked to consider and, when appropriate, to alter their plan and/or design.
(10) 
The current or future color of a structure or any part of the exterior of a structure in the Historic District shall not be reviewed or considered by the HPC.
(11) 
The HPC shall not deny the addition of items such as solar panels or other inventions that are designed to generate or conserve energy except to designate reasonable alternative design and/or placement.
(12) 
The HPC shall not deny any reasonable accommodation for a disability, compatible with this chapter; however, the HPC may suggest reasonable alternative design and/or placement.
B. 
Standards. The following standards shall be used by the HPC in preserving the district's architectural integrity and insuring the compatibility of new construction and alterations with the existing body of distinctive Lewes historic building styles. All materials used shall be consistent with and appropriate in design, texture and other visual qualities to the style and period of the structure. (The Secretary of the Interior's regulations, "Standards For Rehabilitation," including reference drawings, as designated in Appendix C, include broad guidelines covering rehabilitation projects of historic buildings and should be referred to in a reasonable manner, taking into consideration economic and technical feasibility.) (NOTE: See Appendix C on file and available for inspection in the City Manager's office.)
(1) 
Roofs, pitch, dormers and types. The roof and pitch of the roof shall be in keeping with traditional roof types and styles in use in Lewes in new structures and alterations.
(a) 
The roof types traditionally found in Lewes include:
[1] 
Gable, including such variations as the "clipped gable" and the "saltbox";
[2] 
Gambrel or "barn roof";
[3] 
A traditionally framed mansard with dormers incorporated into the roof design; and
[4] 
Hip, including variations on hip roofs such as "gable on hip."
(b) 
Any of these traditional roof types is acceptable without the need to duplicate the predominant roof type of a specific neighborhood since part of the charm of the Lewes streetscape lies in the variation of roof styles and pitches within these basic roof types. Modern variations of these roof types that clearly bear no resemblance to the traditional styles and pitches will not be approved. (Reference Drawings Nos. 1, 2 and 3. [NOTE: See Appendix C on file and available for inspection in the City Manager's office.])
(2) 
Roofing materials. Acceptable materials include wood, slate, metal, asphalts, and fiberglass shingles. Repair materials shall be compatible with the existing roofing material. When a flat roof is otherwise consistent with the design criteria established in this article, i.e., porches, decks, widow's walks or cupolas, then rubber membrane or similar material may be used.
(3) 
Siding material. All materials used shall be consistent with and appropriate in design, texture and other visual qualities to the style and period of the structure. Man-made siding (Brick, stucco, cedar shake and cement fiber board can all be considered man-made or manufactured.) is acceptable, although, if used, it should have a traditional profile. The smooth finish of high-quality cement fiberboard is the approved standard for this material. Vinyl and aluminum or other metal siding is prohibited as substitute siding material. Existing vinyl or aluminum or other metal material on a contributing or noncontributing structure may continue to be used. No vinyl or aluminum or other metal siding material may be used on any new noncontributing structure.
[Amended 12-9-2013]
(4) 
Foundation material. The traditional type of foundation in use in the Lewes Historic District is brick or ballast stone. The use of brick, or a brick veneer over a block foundation, is strongly recommended. Other acceptable materials are natural stone and pargeting (stucco) sufficient to disguise the block joints.
(5) 
Chimney styles and materials. Chimneys in public view should be of brick or pargeting (stucco). Metal chimneys are acceptable for use in nonpublic view.
(6) 
Porches. All materials shall be consistent with and appropriate in design, texture and other visual qualities to the style and period of the structure. Vinyl or aluminum or other metal railings and trim are prohibited; provided, however, that if such vinyl or aluminum or other metal railings and trim exist on a contributing or noncontributing structure, it may continue but cannot be used on a new noncontributing structure in the Historic District. If a porch is to be included in new construction or alteration, it shall adhere to the height line and average depth of other porches in the surrounding neighborhood. When existing structures with traditional porches, either one- or two-story, are renovated, owners are encouraged to preserve both the porch and its architectural detailing. An open porch in public view that encroaches into the setback shall not be converted into living space. Areas under porches or decks shall not be open to view.
[Amended 12-9-2013]
(7) 
Windows.
[Amended 7-9-2012]
(a) 
Restoration. If the windows are original to the historic contributing structure, every reasonable effort shall be made to rehabilitate rather than replace them. Repair materials shall duplicate the old in composition, design, and texture, and shall match as closely as possible the existing historic window elements.
(b) 
Replacement. In the event the original historic windows cannot be restored, every reasonable effort shall be made to replace them in kind using the same sash and pane configuration. The replacement sash shall fit the window opening and not noticeably change the character-defining components of the original window, including the depth of the sill and reveal, mullion profile and configuration, appearance of the frame, reflective qualities of the glass panes, exterior trim, and other design details.
(c) 
New construction. New structures in the historic district and alterations to existing historic structures shall have windows compatible with existing and surrounding structures.
(8) 
Architectural details. The term "architectural details" applies to such building features as window and door trim styles, cornices, ornamental brackets, porch and entrance balustrades, porch pillars, corner pilasters, gable peak ornamentation, lattice work, traditional paneled and louvered wooden shutters and similar details. If consistent with the period, shutters added to a structure shall present the appearance of working shutters, i.e., set out from the siding surface, covering the window casing, and of proper size and proportion in relation to the window. Decorative shutters should not be installed on a building unless there is clear evidence that such decorative shutters were used at some point in the structure's period of significance. The applicant is encouraged to extend the design motif of the existing structure to any addition, and in the case of alteration of an existing structure, the architectural details on the exterior shall be preserved. (Reference Drawings Nos. 5 and 6. [NOTE: See Appendix C on file and available for inspection in the City Manager's office.])
(9) 
Walls, fences and gates. Materials shall be of a type compatible with the architecture of the Historic District and historic properties. Chain link, vinyl, and concrete block are prohibited. (Reference Drawing No. 7. [NOTE: See Appendix C on file and available for inspection in the City Manager's office.])