Historic Murray First Foundation

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Local Historic District

Local Historic District2022-08-11T15:52:57-06:00
The Murray Downtown Residential Historic District

Needs our protection

Throughout Utah, many cities and towns are facing the needless destruction of their treasured historic resources through demolition and insensitive alterations. We’ve experienced this tragedy first-hand through the tragic loss of our Murray First Ward and Carnegie Library in March 2020.

However, many cities and towns in Utah have taken steps to better protect their historic resources through the creation of a local historic district (LHD). By establishing a LHD in Murray, all proposed changes to exterior architectural features that are visible from a public way must be reviewed and approved by a local historic district commission. In this way, needless demolitions and alterations can be permanently prevented. Over XX cities and towns in Utah have already recognized the value of an LHD and have established one or more within their communities.

 

Murray’s Current Historic Listings

Murray currently has 3 federally recognized historic districts and 15 historic buildings. However, this list grows smaller every year. We have already lost 2 individual buildings on the list and several buildings located within those historic districts. If these buildings are listed as “historic,” why aren’t they already protected?

It is essential to know that are two kinds of historic districts in Utah: Local Historic Districts (LHD) and National Register Historic Districts (LRHD). Although an area may be designated as both an LHD and a LRHD, there are substantial differences between the two designations:

  • The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is essentially a federal inventory of buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts that are significant in our nation’s history, culture, architecture, or archaeology, and are deemed worthy of recognition and preservation. It is administered by the Secretary of the Interior through the Utah Historical Commission as the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).
    • While a listing in the National Register provides formal recognition of a property’s significance, it does not place any restrictions or conditions on changes made by a private property owner.
  • A Local Historic District (LHD) is established locally through a city council vote. It provides a regulatory review process for all changes to exterior architectural features visible from a public way.

Murray’s existing historic districts are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), which means there are no protections in place. If a developer purchases property in these districts, they are easily able to demolish historic structures and build incompatible structures in their place, so long as it is approved according to existing zoning. If a homeowner wants to build a lime green 3-story tower attached to their red brick, 50’s ranch, there’s nothing to stop them.

NRHP vs LHD

A chart comparing some of the main differences between the NRHP and an LHD

HMFF Proposes to Make the Murray Downtown Residential Historic District into a Local Historic District (LHD)

The reason you received our mailer is because you currently live within this district. The location is roughly bounded by East 4800 South, East Clark Street, East Vine Street, and Center Street. This district is the best representative area of the residential settlement and development of the city of Murray. It was listed on the NRHP in 2005. I is locally significant as a physical reflection of its residential architecture and the historic development of the city from its agricultural beginnings through its industrial era and current status as a small suburban city. The buildings within the district represent the wide range of architectural styles and plans popular in the city and the state of Utah between 1870 and 1954 and retain a high degree of integrity.

Establishing this area as a Local Historic District (LHD), will provide the area with the strongest form of protection that can be given to historic properties. The purpose of an LHD is to:

  • preserve and protect the distinctive characteristics of buildings and places significant in the history of Utah and its cities and towns.
  • maintain and improve the settings of those buildings and places.
  • encourage new designs compatible with existing buildings in the distfict.

The benefits of LHDs are many:

  • They can be credited with saving the character of many areas in Utah.
  • Provide protection from demolitions and inappropriate remodeling.
  • Provide assurance that the historic built environment will be there for generations to enjoy.
  • Provide a visual of the past.
  • Create pride in the community.
  • Create neighborhood stabilization.

 

Local Historic Districts

Chart detailing what LHDs DO and DON'T

Historic districts do not prevent all changes from occurring, nor do they prevent all demolition, new construction, or development. The intent is to make changes and additions harmonious, and prevent the intrustion of incongruous elements that might detract from the aesthetic and historic values of the district. The purpose of an LHD is not to halt growth, but to allow for thoughtful consideratioons of change.

Homeowner Benefits to Living in a Local Historic District

  • Maintain the character of a homeowner’s block and/or street
  • Property values are improved
  • Value of home sales are higher in LHDs than outside nearby homes

 

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FAQ

I thought that we were already in a historic district?2022-08-11T12:02:15-06:00

The Murray Residential Downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Register District. The National Register is primarily an honorary designation. Our Residential Downtown is only minimally protected from state or federally involved projects. By passing a local historic district, the historic character of our Residential Downtown will be much better protected.

How is a local historic district created?2022-08-11T13:17:23-06:00

[Update for Utah Specific] The first step is to find out what residents and property owners think. If there is interest in creating a local historic district, the Board of Selectmen appoints a study committee that will investigate local historic district designation further. The study committee holds public meetings, seeks public input, researches the history of the area and prepares a report on their findings. The final step is passage of a historic district bylaw by a two-thirds majority at town meeting.

If my house is included in the local historic district, does that mean I have to make it look more historic?2022-08-11T13:18:52-06:00

No, you can maintain the current look of your house as long as you would like. A local historic district only reviews proposed changes to exterior architectural features. Routine maintenance of your house is exempt from review.

What kinds of things are reviewed by a historic district commission?2022-08-11T13:19:56-06:00

Exterior architectural features visible from a public way are reviewed. Interior changes, landscaping, maintenance, and exterior features not visible from a public way are not reviewed. Other exemptions can also be included in the bylaw.

Who are the members of the historic district commission?2022-08-11T13:21:15-06:00

[Update specifically for Utah] A local bylaw describes specifically how the Board of Selectmen will make appointees to the Historic District Commission. In other communities in Utah, the historic district commission consists of members such as architects, realtors, residents, and property owners of the district.

Does this mean I can’t paint my house any color I want?2022-08-11T13:22:10-06:00

[Update for Murray] While some local historic districts in Utah do include paint color review, we are recommending NOT to include any paint color review.

If my building was located in a local historic district and I was constructing an addition, what would I have to do?2022-08-11T13:25:09-06:00

Before acquiring the building permit for your addition, you would fill out an application to the Historic District Commission. The Commission would hold a public hearing and review the proposed plans to make sure that they are appropriate changes to the historic district. If the addition was appropriate, the district commission would issue a certificate. You would then present the Certificate to the Building Inspector to get your building permit. If the addition was not found appropriate, then the Commission would explain to you how the project could be improved.

Isn’t this just another level of bureaucracy?2022-08-11T13:27:35-06:00

While it is true that an additional step is needed for some projects, the benefits of protecting the rich architectural heritage found in our Murray Residential Downtown outweigh this added step. Our Residential Downtown contains buildings over 100 years old. Without a local historic district, these gems that have lasted so long could be demolished or irreparably altered tomorrow.

What will happen to the value of my property if a local historic district is established?2022-08-11T13:28:37-06:00

No one can predict the future but studies around the country suggest that property values stay the same or increase faster in local historic districts compared to similar, non-designated areas.

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