Historic District Building Improvements
Procedures and Requirements
The history of a city is chronicled in various ways – written material, stories of the past, and in the structures that remain today. Preserving that history and protecting those structures is an important responsibility. In fulfilling its responsibility, the City of Muskegon in 1973 made a commitment to historic preservation when the City Commission adopted the Historic District Ordinance to safeguard, stabilize and maintain many of our old and distinguished structures; improve property values; foster civic beauty; strengthen the local economy; and promote the education, pleasure, and welfare of the citizens of the City and State.
The ordinance creates Historic Districts within the City, as well as establishes a Commission to carry out the intent of the Ordinance.
There are eight areas defined as Historic Districts within the City of Muskegon. They fall into two classifications:
Class A: Covers structures that are worthy of preservation but are neither rare nor of pristine character; and
Class AA: Covers the most pristine and significantly meaningful buildings, sites, and environments.The boundaries of the historic districts are shown on the attached map and include:
- Clay-Western Historic District
- National Register Historic District
- Houston Historic District
- Campus Historic District
- McLaughlin Historic District
- Jefferson Historic District
- Clinton-Peck Historic District
- Selected Downtown Structures
By designating these Historic District areas, important structures will be preserved, maintained, and protected. Property taxes are not different from those in other areas of the City, and regular maintenance and repair is permitted and even encouraged within these districts. However, if an owner wishes to construct, move, demolish, make major exterior repairs, or alter a building, site or structure, there are certain steps that must be followed.
(1) Contact the Neighborhood and Construction Services Department [Rm. 108 City Hall (231) 724-6715] to obtain and file a building permit application; a one-page form that indicates the name of the applicant, the proposed improvements, and the location of the property. It also includes valuation of the work, which determines the permit fee. The Department staff will verify that your property is a historic district.
(2) Upon verification, the application will be forwarded to the City Planning Department where the applicant will be provided with a copy of the Preservation Standards along with a short questionnaire to determine the scope of the work. The applicant will also be asked to provide photographs, sketches, plans, material samples, or any other information that will aid the Planning Department staff in making a review and recommendation to the Historic District Commission.
(3) The staff review and recommendation will be forwarded to the Historic District Commission (HDC). The HDC will hold a public meeting, during which the application will be discussed and a decision will be rendered by HDC. The applicant will receive by mail a copy of the agenda and the staff review regarding his/her property a few days before the meeting, and is encouraged to attend the meeting to answer any questions. The HDC attempts to be lenient and flexible in its decisions.
(4) The applicant will be formally notified of the HDC decision by mail.
(5) The approval is granted by the HDC, a Certificate of Appropriateness or Notice to Proceed will be issued. The building permit application will be signed by the Plan Review Director and returned to the Inspections Department with notification of any associated conditions.
(6) The Director of Neighborhood and Construction Services will then sign the application and permit will be issued.
(7) If the HDC tables or denies a permit, the applicant may make any suggested changes and resubmit the application for another review.
(8) If the HDC does not act on the application within 45 days from the date the HDC review application is completed and submitted, this shall be considered approval.
(9) The applicant has the right to appeal an HDC decision in accordance with State Laws.
The HDC meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 4 p.m. at the Muskegon City Hall unless otherwise stipulated. Applicants are asked to submit their applications and any other information at least eleven days before the meeting. Normally, the entire review and approval process will take 15-30 days, but may take longer if the scope of work is complex or the application detail is unclear.
If you have any questions regarding any aspect of this process, you are encouraged to contact the Planning Department (Rm. 203, City Hall (231) 724-6702)