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Editorial: OHDS has potential, needs careful balance

For the past few months, the Hastings Planning Commission has been discussing a piece of the city code called the Original Hastings Design Standards. It’s a unique set of standards, established to “preserve and enhance traditional neighborhood design by reflecting the general characteristics of buildings dating from 1845 to 1940, the predominate era for building construction within the OHDS District,” according to the city code.

The district isn’t a historic district, though, so the guidelines aren’t so strict as those enforced by the Historic Preservation Commission, but they also don’t quite allow homeowners within the district the freedom to modify their own properties. And, as the Planning Commission found this week, it’s a standard that’s unknown to roughly half the residents within the district. You can read more about that on page 1A this week.

We’re happy to see the Planning Commission reviewing the OHDS. Hastings is a city that prides itself on its history, and that history wasn’t limited to downtown and the riverfront. The OHDS district includes plenty of homes with unique and historic architecture that help give Hastings its unique identity and charm. The OHDS could provide a means to highlight those neighborhoods to residents and visitors alike, even if only by adding street sign markers within the district.

At the same time, it’s also important to respect the homeowners who live in the area. The OHDS district covers 450 houses and even more families. That’s a big chunk of the city’s residential properties – too big to impose strict, specific regulations that could be prohibitive.

Finding the right balance will be tricky, but given the conversation so far, we’re sure the city is on the right track.