Township of Whitemarsh, PA
Montgomery County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Supervisors of the Township of Whitemarsh 1-17-2002 by Ord. No. 745.[1] Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Building construction —  See Ch. 42.
Subdivision and land development  —  See Ch. 105.
Zoning  —  See Ch. 116.
[1]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also repealed former Ch. 10, Historic District, adopted 7-1-1971 by Ord. No. 261, as amended, and provided that its provisions would take effect upon the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission's certification, by resolution, of the historical significance of the Township Historic District.
A. 
Pursuant to authority contained in the Act of June 13, 1961, Public Law 282, No. 167, as amended,[1] there is hereby created an Historic District within the Township.
[1]
Editor's Note: See 53 P.S. § 8001 et seq.
B. 
This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Whitemarsh Township Historic District Ordinance."
This District is created for the following purposes:
A. 
Pursuant to Article I, Section 27, of the Pennsylvania Constitution which states that:
"The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustees of these resources, the commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people."
B. 
Now, therefore, it is the purpose and intent of the Township to promote, protect, enhance, perpetuate, and preserve historic districts for the educational, cultural, economic and general welfare of the public through the preservation, protection and regulation of buildings, structures, and areas of historic interest or importance within the Township; to safeguard the heritage of the Township by preserving and regulating historic districts which reflect elements of its cultural, social, economic, political and architectural history; to preserve and enhance the environmental quality of neighborhoods; to strengthen the Township's economic base by the stimulation of the tourist industry; to establish and improve property values; to foster economic development; to foster civic pride in the beauty and accomplishments of the Township's past; and to preserve and protect the cultural, historical and architectural assets of the Township for which the Township has been determined to be of local, state or national, historical and/or architectural significance.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
ALTERATION
Any act or process requiring a building permit and any other act or process not requiring a building permit but specifically listed in this chapter as a reviewable action, including, without limitation, the repair, replacement, reconstruction, demolition or relocation of any structure or object, or any part of a structure which is visible from the public way.
BUILDING
Any enclosed or open structure which is a combination of materials to form a construction for occupancy and/or use for human or animal habitation and is permanently affixed to the land, including manufactured homes.
BUILDING INSPECTOR or CODES ADMINISTRATOR
A municipal employee of or individual retained by the Township designated by Whitemarsh Township as the individual who enforces compliance with building and/or fire codes and issues the permit for the erection, alteration, restoration, reconstruction, demolition or razing of any building within the Historic District, which includes construction of new buildings or structures or changes to existing modern buildings or structures within the District.
BUILDING PERMIT
An approval statement signed by the Building Inspector or Codes Administrator authorizing the construction, alteration, reconstruction, repair, restoration, demolition or razing of all or a part of any building (within an historic district).
BUILDING PERMIT APPLICATION
The request filed by any person with the Building Inspector or Codes Administrator that seeks authorization to erect, alter, reconstruct, repair, restore, demolish, or raze all or a part of any building or structure within an historic district that requires a certificate of appropriateness.
CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS
The approval statement signed by the Township Board of Supervisors which certifies to the historical appropriateness of a particular request for the erection, alteration, restoration, reconstruction, demolition or razing of any building within the Historic District, which includes construction of new buildings or structures or changes to existing modern buildings or structures within the District, and authorizes the issuance of a building permit for said request.
COMPLETED APPLICATION
A completed permit or certificate of appropriateness application is an application which conforms to the submittal criteria for specific historic preservation projects, as determined by the Historical Architectural Review Board.
DEMOLITION
The dismantling or tearing down of all or part of any building and all operations incidental thereto, including neglecting routine maintenance and repairs which can lead to deterioration and decay.
DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT
The absence of routine maintenance and repair which can lead to a building's or structure's structural weakness, decay and deterioration resulting in its demolition.
ERECTION
The result of construction such as a building, structure, monument, sign or object on the ground or on a structure or building.
PLYMOUTH-WHITEMARSH TOWNSHIPS' HISTORICAL ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD (HARB)
The agency that advises the Township Board of Supervisors on any requests for authorization to erect, alter, reconstruct, repair, restore or demolish all or part of any building within an historic district.
PRESERVATION
The act or process of applying measures necessary to sustain the existing form, integrity and materials of an historic property. Work, including preliminary measures to protect and stabilize the property, generally focuses upon the ongoing maintenance and repair of historic materials and features rather than extensive replacement and new construction. New exterior additions are not within the scope of this treatment; however, the limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within the preservation project.
RECONSTRUCTION
The act or process of reproducing by new construction the exact form and detail of a vanished building, structure, or object, or a part thereof, as it appeared at a specific period of time but not necessarily of original material.
REHABILITATION
The act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural or architectural values.
RESTORATION
The act or process of accurately depicting the form, features and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period. The limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a restoration project.
STRUCTURE
Any man-made object having an ascertainable stationary location on or in land or water, whether or not affixed to the land, including, without limitation, buildings, sheds, manufactured homes, garages, fences, gazebos, freestanding signs, billboards, antennas, satellite sending or receiving dishes, vending machines, desks and swimming pools.
A. 
The Whitemarsh Township Historic District shall be described as delineated on a map designated as the "Historic District Map of Whitemarsh Township."[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Said map is included at the end of this chapter.
B. 
The Historic District Map of Whitemarsh Township shall be located in the office of the Building Inspector and made available for public inspection.
A. 
Advisory role. HARB shall give recommendations to the Township Board of Supervisors regarding the advisability of issuing any certificate of appropriateness required to be issued in accordance with the said Act of June 13, 1961, as amended, and this chapter.
B. 
Board rule-making power. HARB may make and alter rules and regulations for its own organization and procedure, provided that they are consistent with the laws of the commonwealth and all provisions of this chapter.
C. 
Annual reports. The members of HARB shall make an annual report to the Township Board of Supervisors, which shall include:
(1) 
Any recommendations for changes in the chapter;
(2) 
The number and types of cases reviewed;
(3) 
The number of cases for which a certificate of appropriateness was either approved or denied;
(4) 
The number of HARB meetings which each member attended;
(5) 
Historic preservation-related training which each member attended;
(6) 
A narrative summary describing the state of preservation in the Township Historic District with recommendations in policy, goals and objectives for the Whitemarsh Board of Supervisors' consideration.
D. 
Meetings. HARB shall meet publicly at regularly scheduled intervals. Further, HARB may hold any additional meetings it considers necessary to carry out its powers and duties indicated in this chapter. Such meetings shall be opened to the public. A majority of HARB members shall constitute a quorum, and action taken at any meeting shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of the members present.
E. 
Training. HARB members and HARB support staff are encouraged to attend seminars, conferences or workshops related to historic preservation and HARB administration.
In addition to the above, HARB shall have the following powers and duties:
A. 
To conduct a survey of buildings, structures, objects and monuments for the purpose of determining those of historic and/or architectural significance and pertinent facts about them; action in coordination with the Township Planning Commission, Zoning Hearing Board, and other appropriate groups and to maintain and periodically revise the detailed listings (resource inventories) of historic resources and data about them, appropriately classified with respect to national, state and local significance in accordance or consistent with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission's "Cultural Resource Management in Pennsylvania: Guidelines for Historic Resource Surveys."
B. 
To propose, from time to time as deemed appropriate, the establishment of additional historic districts and revisions to existing historic districts.
C. 
To formulate recommendations concerning the establishment of an appropriate system of markers for selected historic and/or architectural sites and buildings including proposals for the installation and care of such historic markers.
D. 
To formulate recommendations concerning the preparation and publication of maps, brochures and descriptive material about the Township's historical and/or architectural sites and buildings.
E. 
To cooperate with and advise the Township Board of Supervisors and agencies in matters involving historically and/or architecturally significant sites and buildings (such as appropriate land usage, parking facilities and signs, as well as adherence to dimensional regulations and minimum structural standards).
F. 
To cooperate with and enlist assistance from the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and other agencies, public and private, from time to time, concerned with the preservation of historic sites and buildings.
G. 
To advise owners of historic buildings regarding rehabilitation, repairs, maintenance methods and technologies, adaptive use, economic and tax incentives and other historic preservation strategies.
H. 
To advise the owners or developers of new buildings or structures on the appropriateness of the design, based upon the design guidelines contained in § 10-7.
I. 
To promote public interest in the purpose of this chapter by carrying on educational and public relations programs.
In determining the recommendations to be made to the Township Board of Supervisors concerning the issuance of a certificate of appropriateness, HARB shall consider only those matters that are pertinent to the preservation of the historical and/or architectural aspect and nature of the building, structure, site, area or district certified to have historical significance, including the following:
A. 
Broad historical values representing the cultural, political, economic, or social history of the Township.
B. 
The relationship of the building or structure to historic personages or events.
C. 
Significant architectural types representative of a certain historical period and a style or method of construction.
D. 
The effect of the proposed change upon the general historical and architectural nature of the District.
E. 
The appropriateness of the exterior architectural features that can be seen from a public street or way.
F. 
The general design, arrangement, texture, and material of the building or structure and the relation of such factors to similar features of buildings or structures in the District. Consideration shall be given but not be limited to the following:
(1) 
Proportion of building or structure front facades: preserving the relationship between the width of the front of the building or structure and the height of the front of the building or structure.
(2) 
Proportion of openings within the building or structure: preserving the relationship of width to height of windows and doors.
(3) 
Rhythm of solids to voids in the front facade: preserving the relationship between a recurrent alteration of strong and weak architectural elements, thereby maintaining a rhythm of solids to voids.
(4) 
Rhythm of spacing of building or structure on streets: preserving the existing rhythm of recurrent or repeated building and structure masses to spaces between each building and structure.
(5) 
Rhythm of entrance and/or porch projections: preserving the existing rhythm of entrances or porch projections to maintain a pedestrian scale.
(6) 
Relationship of materials: preserving the predominant materials of the District, such as brick, stone, stucco, wood siding, or other material.
(7) 
Relationship of textures: preserving the predominant textures of the District (which may be smooth, such as stucco, or rough, such as brick) with tooled joints or horizontal wood siding or other textures.
(8) 
Relationship of architectural details: preserving the character-defining features of buildings and structures, such as architectural details, including but not limited to cornices, lintels, arches, quoins, balustrades and ironwork, chimneys, etc.
(9) 
Relationship of roof shapes: preserving compatible roof shapes, such as gable, mansard, hip, flat, gambrel, and/or other kinds of roof shapes.
(10) 
Walls of continuity: preserving physical elements which comprise streetscapes, such as stone or brick walls, wrought-iron fences, building and structure facades or combinations of these which form visual continuity and cohesiveness along the street.
(11) 
Directional expression of front elevation: preserving the orientation of structural shapes, plan of openings and architectural detail that reflect a predominately vertical or horizontal character to the building and structure facade.
(12) 
Scale: preserving the scale of the built environment created by the size of units of construction and architectural detail that relate to the size of persons; in addition, preserving building and structure mass relation to open space.
G. 
Variations. The HARB shall grant variations in a manner that will be in harmony with the character of the other buildings or structures on the street and/or districts.
H. 
The height of any new building or structure shall not exceed the height of the tallest adjacent building or structure by 10%. This requirement shall also apply to any proposed modifications to existing buildings or structures.
I. 
In such rare cases where the HARB recommends and the Board of Supervisors approves demolition of an historic building or structure, a good-faith effort shall be made by the Township and the owner(s) to move said building or structure to a proximate site. If moving a building or structure slated to be demolished is economically or practically infeasible, efforts shall be made to salvage architectural features of said building or structure for use within the Township. Prior to such demolition, the building or structure shall be documented with photographs and measured drawings that are to be provided to the Plymouth Meeting Historical Society.
J. 
All other Township laws and ordinances shall be complied with as appropriate, including the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: See Chs. 116, Zoning, and 105, Subdivision and Land Development.
K. 
Financial feasibility.
(1) 
The Review Board shall consider the financial feasibility of its recommendations in response to a request for a certificate of appropriateness or building permit for the erection, reconstruction, alteration, and restoration of a building or structure. Financial feasibility shall be determined by the HARB on the basis of an unreasonable cost for repair or replacement in-kind of a whole or a part of a building or structure.
(2) 
The applicant shall submit a minimum of three estimates from bona fide contractors and/or vendors substantiating his or her claim that the financial feasibility of repair in-kind is unreasonable. The Board shall determine as to the condition of said architectural feature based on its inspection, photographs or report from the Building Inspector or preservation staff or consultant. No substitute material shall be approved which is inappropriate, incompatible, or is destructive or has the potential to be destructive to the original fabric of the building or structure.
A. 
No sign or permanent external advertising display of any kind shall be erected, altered or used in the Historic District except for advertising informing the public of the service, business, occupation or profession carried on, in or about the property on which such sign or permanent external advertising display appears. In conjunction with this, no such sign or advertising display of any kind or for any purpose shall be erected or altered, notwithstanding zoning sign approval, until an application for a permit to make such erection or alteration has been reviewed by HARB for its conformity in exterior material composition, exterior structural design, external appearance and size with similar advertising or information media used in the architectural period of the District and a permit granted thereon.
B. 
All other requirements of any Township ordinance must be complied with. Historical markers may be authorized by HARB subject to the provisions stipulated, and such markers shall not be considered as signs but are to be erected in accordance with the requirements established for historic markers by HARB.
A. 
Upon receipt of a completed application for a building permit or a certificate of appropriateness for work to be done in the District, the Building Inspector shall act in accordance with the procedures being followed in that office, except those procedures that are modified by the following requirements:
(1) 
The Building Inspector shall determine whether the work proposed needs to be forwarded to HARB staff for administrative approval review. If not, he shall forward copies of the completed application for a building permit together with copies of any plot plan and building plans and specifications filed by the applicant to HARB.
(2) 
The Building Inspector shall not issue a building permit for any erection, alteration, reconstruction, repair, restoration or demolition of all or part of any building in the District until the Township Board of Supervisors has issued a certificate of appropriateness. If the Building Inspector or his or her representative issues a building permit without a certificate of appropriateness due to an administrative or clerical error, said building permit shall be voided.
(3) 
The Building Inspector shall require applicants to submit a sufficient number of additional copies of material required to be attached to a completed application for a building permit or certificate of appropriateness so that the information needed to make the determination set forth in Subsection G(1) through (8) will be available.
(4) 
The Building Inspector shall maintain, in his office, a record of all such applications and final dispositions of the same.
B. 
Board review of applications. Upon receipt of a completed building permit or certificate of appropriateness application under the jurisdiction of this chapter, HARB shall consider such at its next regularly scheduled meeting or special meeting.
C. 
Notification to applicant of HARB meeting. The owner of record or his or her representative(s) applying for a certificate of appropriateness and/or a building permit shall be advised of the time and place of said meeting and be invited to appear to explain his or her reasons at least 10 days before the HARB meeting. HARB may invite such other persons as it desires to attend its meeting.
D. 
Design guidelines. In determining both oral and written recommendations to be presented to the Township Board of Supervisors concerning the issuance of a certificate of appropriateness authorizing the erection, alteration, restoration, reconstruction, demolition, demolition by neglect, or razing of any building within the Historic District, which includes construction of new buildings or structures or changes to existing modern buildings or structures within the District, HARB shall consider the design guidelines set forth in §§ 10-7 and 10-8, and such design guidelines developed by the HARB pursuant to and congruent with the objectives of this chapter.
E. 
Time frame for Board decision. HARB shall render a decision and recommendation on any application for a building permit under its review no later than 30 working days after the hearing/meeting provided for in § 10-5 of this chapter and shall submit, in writing to the Township Board of Supervisors, recommendations concerning the issuance of a certificate of appropriateness.
F. 
Application disapproval by HARB. If the HARB decides to advise against the granting of a certificate of appropriateness, it shall so indicate to the applicant for a building permit. The disapproval shall indicate to the applicant the changes in plans and specifications, if any, which would protect the distinctive historical character of the Historic District and the architectural integrity of the building or structure. The HARB shall withhold its report for five days to allow the applicant to decide whether or not to make the suggested changes in his or her plans and specifications. If the applicant determines that he or she will make the necessary changes, he or she shall so advise the HARB, which shall in turn advise the Board of Supervisors accordingly.
G. 
Contents of written report. The written report to the Township Board of Supervisors concerning HARB's recommendations on the issuance of a certificate of appropriateness shall set out the findings of fact which shall include but not be limited to the following matters:
(1) 
The exact location of the area in which the work is to be done.
(2) 
The exterior changes to be made or the exterior character of the structure to be erected.
(3) 
A list of the surrounding structures with their general exterior characteristics.
(4) 
The effect of the proposed change upon the general historic and architectural nature of the District.
(5) 
The appropriateness of exterior architectural features of the building which can be seen from a public street or way.
(6) 
The general design, arrangement, texture and material of the building or structure and the relation of such factors to similar features of building or structures in the District.
(7) 
The opinion of HARB (including any dissent) as to the appropriateness of the work or project proposed as it will preserve or destroy the historic character and nature of the District.
(8) 
The recommendation of HARB based on findings of fact as to the issuance by the Township Board of Supervisors or its refusal to issue a certificate of appropriateness.
H. 
Notification to applicant by the Township Board of Supervisors of its consideration. Upon receipt of the written report from HARB as provided in Subsection G above, the Township Board of Supervisors shall consider, at the next regularly scheduled or special meeting, the question of issuing to the Building Inspector a certificate of appropriateness authorizing a permit for work covered by the application. The applicant shall be advised by the Township Secretary of the time and place of the meeting at which his or her application shall be considered. The applicant shall have the right to attend this meeting and be heard as to the reasons for filing this said application.
I. 
Design guidelines. In determining whether or not to certify to the appropriateness of the proposed erection, alteration, reconstruction, repair, restoration or demolition of all or a part of any building or structure within the Historic District, the Township Board of Supervisors shall consider the factors set forth in §§ 10-7 and 10-8 of this chapter and the HARB report to the Board.
J. 
Approval by the Township Board of Supervisors. If the Township Board of Supervisors approves the application, it shall issue a certificate of appropriateness authorizing the Building Inspector to issue a permit for the work covered.
K. 
Disapproval by the Township Board of Supervisors.
(1) 
If the Township Board of Supervisors disapproves, a written reason(s) shall be given to the Building Inspector, the applicant and to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The disapproval shall indicate what changes in the plans and specifications would meet the conditions for protecting the distinctive historical character of the District and the architectural integrity of the building or structure.
(2) 
Upon receipt of a written disapproval of the Township Board of Supervisors, the Building Inspector shall disapprove the application for a building permit and so advise the applicant. The applicant may appeal this disapproval to the County Court of Common Pleas within the time specified by the law.
L. 
Final notification by Township Board of Supervisors. In either case of approval or disapproval the Township shall notify the applicant of its decision within five days of its meeting at which the application was considered.
A. 
When a claim of unreasonable economic hardship is made due to the effect of this chapter, the owner of record must present evidence sufficient to prove that, as a result of the Review Board's action, he is unable to obtain a reasonable return or a reasonable beneficial use from a resource. The owner of record shall submit by affidavit to the Review Board some or all of the information below, at the discretion of the HARB, which shall include but not be limited to the following:
(1) 
Date the property was acquired by its current owner.
(2) 
Price paid for the property (if acquired by purchase) and a description of the relationship, if any, between the buyer and the seller of the property.
(3) 
Mortgage history of the property, including current mortgage and the annual debt service, if any, for the previous two years.
(4) 
Current market value of the property.
(5) 
Equity in the property.
(6) 
Past and current income and expense statements for the past two years.
(7) 
Past capital expenditures during ownership of current owner.
(8) 
Appraisals of the property obtained within the previous two years.
(9) 
Income and property tax factors affecting the property.
(10) 
All appraisals obtained within the previous two years by the owner or applicant in connection with purchase, offerings for sale, financing or ownership of the property, or state that none was obtained.
(11) 
All studies commissioned by the owner as to profitable renovation, rehabilitation or utilization of any structure or objects on the property for alternative use, or a statement that none was obtained.
(12) 
Estimate(s) of the cost of the proposed erection, reconstruction, alteration, restoration, demolition or razing and an estimate(s) of any additional cost(s) that would be incurred to comply with the recommendation of the Planning Board for changes necessary for it to approve a certificate of appropriateness.
(13) 
Form of ownership or operation of the property, whether sole proprietorship, for-profit or nonprofit corporation, limited partnership, joint venture or other.
B. 
The Review Board may require that an applicant furnish additional information relevant to its determination of unreasonable economic hardship.
C. 
The Review Board may receive and consider studies and economic analyses from other Township agencies and from private organizations relating to the property in question.
D. 
Should the Review Board determine that the owner's present return is not reasonable, it must consider whether there are other uses currently allowed that would provide a reasonable return and whether such a return could be obtained through investment in the property for rehabilitation purposes. The Review Board may choose to recommend to the Township that special economic incentives be developed to assist the owner of the resource in maintaining it and obtaining a suitable economic return or achieving a reasonable beneficial use.
E. 
The Review Board may seek the assistance of appropriate local, statewide or national preservation organizations in developing solutions which would relieve the owner's economic hardship. If the Review Board chooses to explore such options, the Review Board may delay issuing a certificate of appropriateness for demolition on the basis of economic hardship for a period of 90 days in addition to time periods otherwise applicable.
F. 
Should the applicant satisfy the Review Board that he or she will suffer an unreasonable economic hardship if a certificate of appropriateness is not approved, and should the Review Board be unable to develop with the Township or appropriate local, statewide and national preservation organization a solution which can relieve the owner's economic hardship, the Review Board must recommend a certificate of appropriateness for demolition.
All buildings and structures within the Township Historic District shall be maintained in good repair, structurally sound, and reasonably protected against decay and deterioration. Examples of such deterioration include:
A. 
Deterioration of exterior walls or other vertical supports.
B. 
Deterioration of roofs or other horizontal members.
C. 
Deterioration of exterior chimneys.
D. 
Deterioration of crumbling or exterior stucco or mortar.
E. 
Ineffective waterproofing of exterior walls, roofs, or foundations, including broken windows or doors.
F. 
Deterioration of any feature so as to create a hazardous condition which could lead to the claim that a demolition is necessary for the public safety.
The Building Inspector shall serve a notice of violation on the person in violation of this chapter which would result in but not be limited to failure to apply for a certificate of appropriateness or a building permit required for the erection, reconstruction, alteration, restoration, demolition, demolition by neglect, or razing of any building or structure which can be seen from a public way and failure to comply with HARB-approved work. Such notice shall direct the abatement of said violation.
The Building Inspector or his designated representative shall have the power to institute any proceedings at law or in equity necessary for the enforcement of this chapter.
Any person violating any of the provisions of this chapter shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine not to exceed the maximum fine of $1,000 plus costs of prosecution and, in default of payment of such costs and prosecution, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 30 days; provided, however, that if the District Justice determines that the defendant is without the financial means to pay the fines and costs immediately or in a single remittance, such defendant shall be permitted to pay the fines or costs in installments and over such period of time as the District Justice deems to be just.
In case any work is performed by any person in violation of any of the provisions of this chapter, the proper officer of this Township, in addition to other remedies, may institute in the name of the Township any appropriate action or proceeding, whether by legal process or otherwise, to prevent such unlawful work and to restrain or abate such violation.