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Thursday, May 30, 2024

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Cape May Updating Historic Design Standards

Cape May Logo
Cape May Logo

By Vince Conti

CAPE MAY – Cape May City Council introduced an ordinance, June 20, that will, when it is fully adopted, update the historic design standards for the city.  

Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) Chair Warren Coupland joked that it was a big task to update standards that were themselves award winning in their day. 

On this day, the HPC was seeking approval for the book of standards What will follow, Coupland said, is the public outreach campaign to increase awareness of the changes and the placing of the standards online where changes can more easily be recorded than was possible when the city relied on only the book. 

Coupland was clear that nothing in the new standards book increases the authority of the HPC. What the book does accomplish is a consolidation of ordinance changes over a 20-year period since it was issued.  

As Coupland put it, many things have changed in the time since the last design standards book was published. He used the examples of how to elevate a historic home or how to use solar panels. 

Coupland also noted that the U.S. Secretary of the Interior updated the department’s standards in 2017 with implications for Cape May’s design standards. 

The ordinance introduction is the first step in the formal approval process for the standards. Next stop will be the city’s Planning Board, where they must be reviewed for consistency with the recently updated Master Plan.  

After being vetted by the Planning Board and with any modifications that may have come from that process, the document will make its way back to the City Council. 

The council will schedule a public hearing on the ordinance approving the standards. Only then will the council take a vote on the adoption of the new standards. It is a careful process in a city that takes its historic status very seriously. 

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