Want to keep your historic home historic? There's a guide for that.

Chris Roark
Waxahachie Daily Light
The Waxahachie City Council approved the historic residential design guidelines, which were established by the Heritage Preservation Commission with help from a consultant.

The city of Waxahachie now has a set of guidelines to help residents and developers maintain the integrity of the city’s historic homes.

Monday the City Council approved the historic residential design guidelines, which were established by the Heritage Preservation Commission with help from a consultant.

Anita Simpson, the city’s heritage preservation officer and director of downtown development, said Monday’s adoption is the culmination of two years of work from the commission.

Simpson said the guidelines are similar to those the city uses the downtown area.

“We got our downtown guidelines in 2011, and they proved to be an exceptional tool for the commission,” Simpson said. “And for all of our property owners and developers.”

The process for the residential guide included two resident workshops with surveys. Residents could give their opinions about issues and goals related to historic preservation in historic districts and citywide.

They were also able to review and comment on the proposed guidelines.

Simpson said this only applies to the exterior of the homes and are merely suggestions.

“This is not a regulatory document,” Simpson said. “This is a guide to help people maintain their properties properly. There are no rules they have to follow. This is information to help them protect the integrity of their investment.”

Simpson said the guide will serve multiple purposes, including providing consistency.

“It helps the commission maintain consistency on its decisions on properties,” Simpson said.

She said the guidelines can be used by property owners who are planning appropriate alterations.

Simpson said the city staff and the commission will use the guidelines when a certificate of appropriateness (COA) is required and when homeowners in these areas seek tax credits.

“We have over 200 properties every year that participate in our tax exemption and incentives program,” Simpson said.

The guide includes various sections, such as how to use the guidelines, planning a project, historic resources, additions and new buildings.

“There’s extensive information about the types of houses we have here in Waxahachie,” Simpson said, “and how to identify the features of each of those types of houses.”

Simpson said the guide also identifies key features of a historic home, such as gabled or hip roof, exposed rafter tails, squared piers and screened foundations.

It touches on proper placement of additions.

The guide also includes information on new construction, ensuring that the new structure is compatible with the surrounding area but differentiated.

“You don’t want to put something in a historic neighborhood that people are going to mistake as a historic property,” Simpson said, adding that mass and scale, roof form and building materials are important considerations.

Simpson said the guide directs people to certain chapters to get information based on the project they are working on.

“One of the things that we love about our design guidelines for the downtown is that everything is user friendly,” Simpson said. “It’s easy to be understood by the lay person.”

City Manager Michael Scott said the timing of this guide is appropriate at a time when the cost to develop outward continues to increase, thus the city is encouraging developers to look inward, such as infill properties.

“This is the perfect tool to say, ‘what should those homes look like?’” Scott said. “It may not be appropriate to have a brick masonry home that our current zoning requires. Maybe it would be more appropriate to match the character of the neighborhood.”

The Heritage Preservation Commission was created in 2000. Peggy Crabtree and Becky Kauffman have been involved since it began and know the value of having so many historic homes in the city.

“We have a couple of hundred national registered properties in the city,” Crabtree said. “That’s just an honorary listing. But it carries a lot of weight with people like us who are interested in historic property. So we’re trying to keep as many of them as we can.”

The guideline project is funded in part by a Certified Local Government grant the commission received.

Simpson said the guide should be posted on the city’s website in the coming days.