Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dissing the Dishes

Chapter 169-5 of the city code requires that a certificate of appropriateness be obtained before installing a satellite dish in a historic district. The idea is that the satellite dish be positioned someplace where it cannot be seen from the street. If not the least known part of the historic preservation law, this is certainly the most widely ignored. In recent days, 534 Warren Streetsmack-dab in the middle of the locally designated Warren Street Historic Districtsprouted three new satellite dishes on the roof, fully visible above the cornice, to go along with the one already on the facade of the building.

If it is impossible to make the owners of buildings in historic districts aware that, if they want to install a satellite dish, they need a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission, perhaps the City should inform the satellite TV providersDish and DirectTVof the law.


  1. I contacted the new code enforcement officer in the Fall as I saw a newly installed satellite dish on the front of a house in my old neighborhood. It was in a historic district. Months later that same dish is there.

    As someone about to go before the HPC I find myself very conflicted. I appreciate deeply the efforts made to restore our beautiful homes and buildings, it is why we bought a home here. However I do wonder why it is some citizens who follow the rules are given a hard time while those who don't seem to go unnoticed. While the historical accuracy of some restorations can be a matter of interpretation, I don't think there is anyone out there who believes a satellite dish qualifies.

    Is it the role of the code enforcer to notify the home owner of a violation? How is that handled and what are the repercussions when someone flouts the guidelines?

    I like the idea of notifying the satellite companies but since the onus lies with the property owner what can be done to communicate and enforce the guidelines? When we first bought property in Hudson we were in the dark. We relied on neighbors and Gossips to educate ourselves. I tried using the city's website but found it difficult to hunt down the answers we were looking for.

    One last question and I will shut up... is there something available to homeowners to help us make preservation-savvy decisions? In my case I am relying on my own research to design what I believe to be historically accurate improvements to my property. I won't know though until I go before the HPC whether or not I succeeded. If I'm interpreting the procedural information correctly if I fail I have to wait another month before I can try again.

  2. Lisa,

    Presenting to the HPC is no small challenge, as you've found out. There are some very specific requirements that, if your application is lacking, it will be rejected as 'incomplete.' A complete application will then be evaluated to determine whether or not the proposed changes are appropriate. Once since an interpretation is made, a 'certificate of appropriateness' will be issued. One thing you can do in anticipation of the meeting is consult with an historic preservationist before you present. I've presented to the HPC on several occasions and have a good handle on chapter 169 of the City code. You can email me and I would be happy to share my thoughts as a courtesy.

    Ward Hamilton

    1. Thank you - I will take you up on that!

  3. It pays to ask questions! I want to thank Ward for giving me guidance on the CofA application process and Rick Rector for reaching out to me directly to answer any questions I had. I am looking forward to meeting with the HPC next month and hopefully adding something positive to the streetscape.