Planning Commission Supports HDC Qualifications for Ascension House Designation
Planning Commission Defer Final Decision on House's Historical Standing Back to HDC, Mayor and City Council
The City Planning Commission announced on Wednesday night that they unanimously support the Historical District Commission's recommendation in regards to the historical designation of the Ascension House at 202 S. Summit Ave.
"We support the HDC and will defer to their qualifications in any recommendations made to the Mayor and City Council," said Planning Commission member Lloyd Kaufman.
The official decision for the Ascension House's historical standing will now go back to the HDC and Mayor and City Council, who will announce their verdict in the coming month.
The Planning Commission's review is one of the final steps in a process triggered by a demolition application sought for the house by it's owners, the Episcopal Church of the Ascension.
Ascension and their 500 member congregation face a parking crisis now that they will soon lose their parking spaces at Gaithersburg High School for a two-year period during the school's upcoming renovation. As a possible solution, the church submitted a demolition permit for the Ascension House in July as part of a plan to obtain 150 new parking spaces for their services, 60 of which they estimate could be created on the Ascension House property.
The application brought on a review by the HDC to determined whether the house had "historical, cultural, architectural and/or design significance." After two tours of the house in July, the commission recommended that the house, built by former city councilman Frank Severence in 1903, be historically designated and called a public hearing.
Many church members dismissed the HDC's "broad" criteria for designation, stating that its definition of historical significance would not stand to a stricter rubric. HDC chairman Clark Day dispelled the claims, however, classifying the Ascension House an "open-and-shut designation".
"The history speaks for itself," Day said in an interview on Nov. 22, "It's one of the most qualified properties for historic designation in this community."
Kaufman did agree that some of the language in the HDC's report was "a little bit loose," but that the commission ultimately determined that the lack of a redevelopment plan for either side made a firm challenge of the HDC's recommendation hard.
"It's hard to know what planning will come out of any designation without a redevelopment plan," Kaufman said, adding that the commission doesn't see these cases "very often."
"The report does show that removal is discouraged if appropriate and we'll follow the qualifications of the new established HDC in their proposal to encourage preservation."