Kansas historic preservation review snags two Westwood Hills home additions

It has been more than a year since the entire city of Westwood Hills won a designation as a state historic district, and then topped it with the whole city being accepted for the National Register of Historic Places. Since then a number of building permits for work on houses in Westwood Hills have been issued without incident. But in recent months, two applications have been rejected by the state review board, according to Sarah Martin at the Kansas Historical Society.

The shops at State Line Road and 50th Street contribute to the architecture for the Westwood Hills historic district application.
The shops at State Line Road and 50th Street contribute to the architecture for the Westwood Hills historic district.

As a Kansas Historic District, building permits for every home and business in Westwood Hills must be reviewed by the state historic preservation office. Building permits for Westwood Hills are handled by the staff at Westwood where city clerk Fred Sherman said the historic office has been making the reviews and turning them around in a day or two without incident.

Recently though, two home additions were rejected by the review officer, which means the building permits cannot be issued unless the decision is appealed to the city council and overturned. The permits can be rejected by the historic review board if the changes would cause a “diminution or loss of historic character.” Sherman said both of the remodels in question involved changes to the exterior of the houses.

One of the permit applications, which included a garage expansion, was successfully appealed to the city council, Sherman said, which can find that “no feasible or prudent alternative” exists for the plans. That allows the permit to be issued. The other application rejected by the state board, Sherman said, was a colonial Cape Cod that wanted to expand the dormers. It is not known if it will be appealed.

The historic designation brings with it the opportunity to get a 25 percent state income tax credit on any home renovations, including interior work or new roof, that help preserve the historic structures. About a dozen tax credit projects have been approved in the year since the designation. The rejected remodels were not tax credit projects.