Article II, Section 12 of the Norhill deed restrictions specifies that remodels and additions must “be in harmony” with existing structures, but what exactly does that mean? To make things even more confusing, the deed restrictions reference three aspects of harmony: harmony of external design, harmony of ground elevation and harmony of topography.
Obviously, the concept of “being in harmony” is essential to maintaining the delicate character of a historic district, so the NNA Deed Restrictions Committee has issued a set of guidelines to clarify these issues and provide guidance for homeowners and developers who wish to renovate structures in the Norhill Historic District.
Harmony of External Design
We know from working with city planners at the Houston Archeological and Historic Commission that choice of external materials is very important. It’s impossible to maintain the look of a historic area if non-traditional materials are allowed. Doors, windows, siding and roofing are all required to look like original materials from the 1920s, even if they are made using newer technology. The front facade of a house must be maintained, too. If you can show that the facade was changed by a previous owner, you have the right to take it back to the original design.
Harmony of Ground Elevation
Many areas in the Heights and other older Houston neighborhoods have allowed homes to be raised so they tower over the surrounding structures. We’ve experienced very little of that in Norhill, so we require that structures align vertically and horizontally with others on the block. Anytime this rule is violated, it just looks wrong.
Harmony of Topography
Rapidly escalating property values have caused an explosion of interest in building larger structures on our small lots. In order to preserve the unique character of Norhill, we recognize the need to place some limits on this growth. We are specifying that primary dwellings be roughly centered on a lot, with adequate set-backs in the front, rear and sides. The footprint of the primary dwelling should represent no more than 40% of the lot.
We also recognize the importance of maintaining balance with neighboring structures. It’s not right to allow one home to overpower the ones on either side. Our guideline is that a primary structure cannot be expanded to more than 150% of the average of the immediately adjacent primary structures (the people you share a fence line with). So if the houses on either side and to the rear average 1,500 square feet, you cannot expand your house to more than 2,250 sf.
But more than anything, we don’t want Norhill to become a community of wall-to-wall structures like you find in other inside-the-loop neighborhoods. We think quality of living requires at least a minimum amount of green space, trees and gardens. So we have set a maximum limit of 2,500 square feet on remodeled structures in Norhill. There are some existing houses larger than that, but not many.
These guidelines are intended to help manage growth in Norhill in a way that allows us to “harmoniously” maintain the historic integrity of our neighborhood. For a complete look at the remodeling expansion guidelines, download the full guidelines here.