Written by Bob Rice, HARB Chairperson
1994–1995 Beaver Council and Beaver Area Heritage Foundation coordinated the efforts of consultant Davis Associates to create an inventory of buildings meeting the US Dept of Interior National Historic District qualifying criteria.
A remarkably high 87% of the 1,456 surveyed resources qualified contributing properties under standardized national criteria.
1996 Beaver’s Historic District application was approved and it was designated by the Federal and PA and named to the National Register of Historic Places (only about 5% of US municipalities are so recognized).
2008 Beaver Planning Commission recommended establishing a Historic District (HD) designation in the Zoning Ordinance/study legal means to protect its authenticity (identity).
2009–2011 Council appointed Historic Preservation (HP) Study Group met and proposed a draft ordinance to create and authorize a Municipal Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB). Council evaluated, adopted and appointed volunteer members charged to evaluate and recommend through a legal process, demolition of National Historic District contributing properties within the Borough.
2012 Date Activities Review – Since formed, HARB consulted on over 20 historic preservation issues, of those review and recommendation reports on 13 demolition requests were processed. Of these 8 (62%) were recommended by HARB for approval (all ratified by council) and demolition of 5 were not recommended for approval (4 of 5 (80%) were overruled by council). In 2018 a demolition was carried out without a permit, Council requested HARB make informal recommendations on proposed new construction.
2013 Part of the Beaver Comprehensive Plan Update included a 13 question community attitudes survey. The 2nd and 3rd highest supported issues, with over 80% support, were the importance of historic preservation and favoring guidelines for new construction or major renovation in the historic district. (500 surveyed – <90% reliability)
2017 Funded by Shell Chemicals Appalachia with staff assistance from PHMC, RGA Consultants is preparing a Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan for Beaver that updated the Historic District inventory, reviewed needs and developed strategies for Historic District preservation, drafted construction guidelines, made an evaluation/recommendations on the current HARB ordinance and public education. In early 2018 a more focused online Historic District Planning survey also showed significant Historic Preservation support, results included:
- Question #3 – Beaver Historic Preservation efforts to date have sometimes proven ineffective because:
- Demo replacement buildings not held to historic district compatibility review – 53%
- Question #4 – Historic preservation of resources within the historic district should be:
- Voluntary – 20%
- Required – 58% for major exterior changes like new additions/removal of major architectural features
- Question #6 – Should the current Historic District ordinance add:
- Review of major exterior changes – 52%
- Review of new construction – 75%
- Require design review with voluntary compliance – 0%
- Question #7 – Preference of amended ordinance to cover
- All resources in Historic District – 64%
- Question #8 – Rank top threats to quality residential neighborhoods:
- Conversion of single-family homes to multi-family rental properties
- Demolition of historic buildings
- New construction visually incompatible with surrounding neighborhood
Complete survey results are available online: https://goo.gl/TShA5E
HARB meeting notices are posted on the Borough website and via Beaver e-Alerts including consultant prepared draft documents prior to review at meetings. Residents are encouraged to get involved and informed at future meetings concerning the finalization of the comprehensive historic preservation comprehensive plan scheduled regularly at 7:00 P.M., 1st Monday of each month.
What’s a HARB?
HARB, the Historic Architectural Review Board, is an appointed Beaver Borough Board that conducts a systematic review of proposed demolition application of listed contributing properties within Beaver’s designated historic district. The HARB then makes written recommendation to Borough Council, who then make the decision to permit such demolition. Most know Beaver is included on the National Register of Historic Places—the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. The Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archaeological resources. The following gives an overview of how Beaver has been involved in this ongoing effort