Clark Park Conservation District

What is a Conservation District?

A Conservation District is a specific geographic area containing a concentration of historically or architecturally significant structures that contribute to the visual characteristics or distinctive atmosphere of a neighborhood. The significance of the structures within a Conservation District does not rise to the same level as the significance of designated landmarks or Historic Districts, so the criteria for approval are correspondingly less rigorous. A Conservation District imposes some limitations on a property owner’s ability to modify the exterior of their structure or build or demolish structures in part or in whole.

Why is the City of Champaign considering designating the Clark Park neighborhood as a Conservation District?

The City of Champaign received an application for designation from a steering committee of Clark Park neighborhood residents. The City is currently processing this application and preparing it for consideration by the Historic Preservation Commission, Plan Commission, and City Council.

The application itself is available for review here.

The applicants’ supporting narrative is available for review here

The applicants’ survey forms for individual properties are available for review as well:

Who are the listed contacts for the group that submitted the application?

What are the boundaries of the proposed Conservation District?

See below for the boundary map of the proposed Conservation District. A list of property addresses and PINs can be found here.

Download a Larger Version of Map

What are the important concepts that make up a Conservation District?

Three concepts vital to the functioning of these rules are the Contributing Building, the Noncontributing Building, and the Certificate of Appropriateness.

What are Contributing and Noncontributing Buildings?

A Contributing Building is “a building, site, structure, or object that adds to the historic association, historic architectural quality, or cultural values because it was present during the period of significance, relates to the documented significance of the property, and possesses historic integrity, or is capable of yielding important information about the period.” In contrast, a Noncontributing Building is “a building, site, structure, or object which does not add to the historic architectural qualities, historic association, or cultural values of the area because it was not present during the period of significance or does not relate to the documented significance of the property, due to alterations, disturbances, additions, or other changes, or because it no longer possesses historic integrity, nor is capable of yielding important information about the period.”

Who determines whether a structure is Contributing or Noncontributing?

The applicants conducted a survey of properties within the proposed boundaries, identifying the architectural style and various details of every house. The applicants then recommended whether each structure should be Contributing or Noncontributing. Upon receipt of this list, City staff reviewed each house and made their own recommendations for Contributing and Noncontributing structures. Both lists are largely in agreement, coming to the same recommendation for >90% of properties.

If the Historic Preservation Commission formally nominates the proposed Conservation District for consideration by Plan Commission and City Council, they will designate a list of Contributing Buildings and Noncontributing Buildings that may match the applicant list, the staff list, or diverge from both proposed lists.

The fact that any given house is listed as Noncontributing does not mean that it is bad, ugly, or out of scale with the neighborhood! It simply means that the aesthetic qualities of the house do not relate to the historic architectural quality of the district during the period of historical significance. Generally, most Noncontributing Buildings are so designated either because they were built in the past several decades, or they were substantially modified during the last several decades such that the historical front façade is significantly altered or obscured.

What is a Certificate of Appropriateness?

A Certificate of Appropriateness (CofA) is a legally required permit issued by the Historic Preservation Commission for certain types of construction, demolition, and alterations within the Conservation District. Property owners subject to CofA requirements must have their plans reviewed and approved by the Historic Preservation Commission before they will receive any other City building or demolition permit. To learn more about CofA review, please visit Division 4 of the City’s Historic Preservation ordinance.

If the Conservation District is adopted, what restrictions will apply to my property?

The restrictions that will apply to your property depend on whether your property contains a Contributing Building or a Noncontributing Building. There is no type of activity that is banned outright; rather, certain types of activity require CofA review from the Historic Preservation Commission before they may proceed.

Activities that require a CofA include:

  • The construction of any new building that requires a building permit (i.e. 120 square feet in size or larger)
  • The construction of an addition on a Contributing Building
  • Demolition of a Contributing Building
  • Relocation of a Contributing Building

Activities that do not require a CofA include:

  • The construction of an addition on a Noncontributing Building
  • Demolition of a Noncontributing Building
  • Relocation of a Noncontributing Building
  • Alterations to exterior and interior features of any structure, even if a building permit is required, provided that the alternation does not expand or reduce the square footage of the structure
  • Any activity that does not require a building permit, including but not limited to:
    • Changing exterior paint colors
    • Installing storm doors, storm windows, and window air conditioners
    • Ordinary repair and maintenance of existing architectural features which does not change the basic structural appearance of those features
    • Installation and repair of walks, patios, and driveways
    • Changes in landscaping

When do these restrictions take effect?

Although the Conservation District still has not been approved, these restrictions are in effect now due to a concept called Interim Control. Section 37-506 of the Municipal Code enacts the Conservation District on a temporary basis until this matter is resolved. Accordingly, if you wish to engage in any activity requiring a building permit between now and the adoption or dismissal of the Conservation District, you will need to apply for a CofA.

These restrictions do not apply to any building permits issued or applied for on or before September 4th, 2018, whether or not construction activity has begun.

What are the steps in the approval process?

Before the Conservation District is enacted, it must be approved by three boards: Historic Preservation Commission, Plan Commission, and City Council.

Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) is the first board to review the Conservation District. HPC’s role is to officially nominate the Conservation District for consideration by Plan Commission and City Council. In considering whether to nominate the Conservation District, HPC will evaluate the application against the criteria listed in Sec. 37-493 of the Municipal Code. HPC will consider the recommendations from both the applicants and staff concerning the boundaries of the Conservation District and which buildings should be designated as Contributing, and may modify both the district boundaries and the list of properties for designation. Should a majority of HPC vote to nominate the Conservation District, the process moves on to the next step. Should a majority of HPC vote against the nomination, the process ends at this point.

The next step is a public hearing before Plan Commission. Like HPC, Plan Commission considers the criteria listed in Sec. 37-493 of the Municipal Code. However, Plan Commission also takes under consideration (1) the connection of the Conservation District to the Comprehensive Plan and other planning and zoning goals, (2) whether any property owners demonstrate that a Conservation District would prevent them from obtaining a reasonable return on their property, and (3) whether any property owners oppose the designation. When considering these criteria, Plan Commission has the power to reduce the boundaries of the Conservation District or redesignate Contributing Buildings as Noncontributing, but may not expand the boundaries or list new properties as Contributing. Plan Commission’s vote on the Conservation District is advisory to City Council, so regardless of the outcome at Plan Commission, the process moves on to the next step.

The final step in the process is a vote by the City Council. City Council considers the same criteria as Plan Commission. The Conservation District can be approved by a simple majority vote of City Council unless one of two conditions arises. Should Plan Commission recommend against approval, or should 40% of property owners within the proposed district protest the nomination (see below), then the Conservation District may only be approved if six (6) members of the City Council vote in favor.

Does the Planning and Development Department make a staff recommendation on this matter?

At each point in the process, staff will make a recommendation to the relevant board or commission. Boards and commissions are free to either adopt or disregard the staff recommendation.

The staff recommendation will be presented in a written staff report for each meeting, as well as verbally at the meeting itself. Staff reports will be posted on this website at least five days in advance of each meeting date.

What is the public meeting schedule for this initiative?

All meetings will be held in the Council Chambers at the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.

  • Neighborhood meeting: Monday, September 24, 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
  • Historic Preservation Meeting: Thursday, October 4, 4:00 PM
  • Plan Commission Hearing: Wednesday, November 7, 4:00 PM
  • City Council Meeting: Tuesday, November 20, 7:00 PM

I oppose the Conservation District. How can I demonstrate my opposition?

Anyone, whether a resident of or property owner in the proposed district, is welcome to attend any of the public meetings and express your opposition. Citizens may also submit written comments to Ben LeRoy at ben.leroy@champaignil.gov.

Property owners within the proposed district have formal protest rights. As mentioned above, a formal protest by 40% of property owners triggers an approval threshold of six (6) members of the City Council.  Following HPC nomination of the Conservation District, you will receive a letter informing you of the formal protest procedure. This website will be updated to reflect that information at that time as well.

I oppose the designation of my property as a Contributing Building. How can I demonstrate my opposition?

You may oppose the designation of your property as a Contributing Building at the HPC meeting by presenting architectural and historical evidence that your property “does not add to the historic architectural qualities, historic association, or cultural values of the area because it was not present during the period of significance or does not relate to the documented significance of the property, due to alterations, disturbances, additions, or other changes, or because it no longer possesses historic integrity, nor is capable of yielding important information about the period.”

You may oppose the designation of your property as a Contributing Building at the Plan Commission and City Council meetings on any grounds whatsoever, including (but not limited to) evidence indicating that you cannot obtain a reasonable return if your property is so designated.

You may also submit written comments to Ben LeRoy at ben.leroy@champaignil.gov.

I support the Conservation District. Do I need to do anything to demonstrate my support?

Anyone, whether a resident of or property owner in the proposed district, is welcome to attend any of the public meetings and express your support. Citizens may also submit written comments to Ben LeRoy at ben.leroy@champaignil.gov.

Unlike the protest process for opponents of the Conservation District, there is no formal method of designating your support that will alter the City Council voting threshold. However, public input serves as an invaluable point of consideration for HPC, Plan Commission, and City Council alike.

In short: if you support the Conservation District, you are welcome and encouraged to speak or write on the matter, but you are not required to do so.

I think a particular house should be designated as a Contributing Building. What sort of evidence should I present?

You may support the designation of any property as a Contributing Building at the HPC meeting by presenting architectural and historical evidence that the property “adds to the historic association, historic architectural quality, or cultural values because it was present during the period of significance, relates to the documented significance of the property, and possesses historic integrity, or is capable of yielding important information about the period.”