Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB)
Mary Alfson Tinsman
Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson (JMT)
The purpose of the City of York, Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB), is to regulate the erection, reconstruction, alteration, restoration, demolition or razing of buildings within the (local) historic districts (as designated by York City Council).
HARB is much misunderstood. It is a local historic district, which is separate from the National Register Historic District. (Most residents will have no contact with the National Register district regulations, unless government money, tax credits, or a government agency is involved in their project.) HARB is only an advisory board to City Council - all decisions rendered must receive a majority vote of Council, or they do not stand. Although Council votes in favor of most HARB decisions, Council has overturned HARB in the past, on both major and minor issues.
HARB is composed of 7 regular and 3 alternate members, appointed by City Council. Of those members, 1 member must be recommended by the York County Heritage Trust, 1 member must be a registered architect, 1 member must be a licensed real estate broker, and 1 member must be a building inspector. Four members must be residents of / or property owners in the City of York, and all members must have demonstrated interest or related expertise in historic buildings.
If you live in the HARB District and are proposing to do any exterior work which is visible from a pbulic street or alley, you must receive HARB approval before undertaking the work even if a permit is not required.
HARB has a paid consultant, currently JMT, who reviews all applications and writes a review of each application for the Board to consider. HARB is constantly trying to streamline its process and many items are now either exempted or are dealt with as “staff reviews” and do not have to come before the HARB Board at all. Furthermore, the consultant is constantly available to advise anyone on what the HARB Board will be looking for from each application.
A brief history: HARBs were authorized in Pennsylvania by the “Historic District Act” dated July 13, 1961. York City Council established York’s HARB by ordinance in 1970, and its second in 1975. A larger HARB district, which encompasses the first two, was established in 2002.
MEETINGS: HARB meetings are held on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 101 S. George St., 1st Floor, York, PA, unless another location or time is advertised.