IMPORTANT: Potential Threat to Dover Historic District Commission


One of Preservation Delaware’s primary goals over the past two years has been to provide expanded and ongoing training for Delaware’s nine historic commissions.  We have been able to offer training through Historic Preservation Fund grants that Delaware City and the City of Lewes received as certified local governments and a Henry A. Jordan, M.D. Preservation Excellence Fund grant Preservation Delaware received from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

When applying for this funding, Preservation Delaware noted that “few entities have the ability to set the course for protecting our cultural resources as do historic preservation commissions. Historic preservation is by and large a local and grassroots effort. These commissions operate at the local level and thus the effectiveness of how they function has tremendous impact on how historic preservation is deemed.” 

We, at Preservation Delaware, were very concerned when we received an email from Larry Josefowski, President of the Friends of Old Dover, on Friday morning.  Mr. Josefowski’s email began:


Thought you might like to be aware of a plan that some in the City of Dover are pushing to remove our Historic District Commission from the approval process of building in our Historic District. The theory would be that the Planning Commission could handle it themselves, and would streamline our process.

The Friends of Old Dover intend to try to stop this process, because we believe it’s primary goal is to weaken the guidelines themselves. I plan on speaking before City Council Monday evening…

When I contacted Mr. Josefowski to see if we might reprint his email, he sent me a copy of the letter he had just submitted to the City of Dover.  The letter is printed below followed by a January 9 memorandum to the Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee from Ann Marie Townshend, Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Dover.

The agenda for the Monday, January 14 meeting of the Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee where the role and scope of the Dover Historic District Commission and the Historic District will be discussed can be found here. 

If you agree that our historic commissions are critically important in saving and protecting Delaware’s historic resources, ATTEND THIS MEETING!  Even if you do not live or work in Dover, YOUR SUPPORT IS IMPORTANT!


Terry Graham

Executive Director

Preservation Delaware


nthp take action

 Friends of Old DoverP.O. Box 44Dover, DE 19903-0044 

City of Dover

15 Loockerman Plaza

Dover, DE 19901

TO: The Honorable Councilman Sean Lynn, Chairman, Legislative, Finance, and Administrative Committee

It is interesting to hear some of the discussion regarding the role of the Historic District Commission, and by extension the Historic District, being discussed in economic terms. It is important to talk about the Commission, the district, and the guidelines that govern the Historic District because by weakening the process of one – the proposed elimination of the Historic District Commission-the importance of our Historic District Guidelines is decreased.

It is a statement of convenience to place the perceived economic faults of Downtown Dover towards the Historic District Commission, and by extension, the Guidelines themselves. Historic structures that have been demolished or significantly altered promote the loss of character that enrich the lives of people today. Part of the story of Dover – a story stretching back 330 years- is missing. Have there been economic benefits of these actions?

A strong historic character is not an impediment to economic development…it can be just the opposite, a strong draw for tourism, and a perfect partner for businesses, museums, colleges, schools, and government. We are doing a better job of promoting our historic area, and keeping an aesthetically cohesive historic district, and the appropriate oversight, makes economic sense.

Having a separate Commission helps to guarantee the process is followed…and that helps to ensure better design. There is a greater sense of relatedness, more innovative use of materials, and greater public appeal within historic districts than in areas without historic designations.

Our historic districts provide a very real educational benefit. The preservation helps our current generations, as well as generations to come, the very story of Dover, as the architecture and structure provide the best possible record of ourselves and our communities.

And, perhaps most importantly, it is the main characteristic of the City of Dover. Try to visualize, if you will, Dover without The Green….or try to imagine a copy of the Real Estate newsletter Open Door or the weekly house listings in the Post or the State News without a single mention of homes being in or near “Historic Dover.”

The Friends of Old Dover urges the city to not only continue the protection of the Historic District by retaining the Historic District Commission to oversee the Guidelines that have stood us well over the years, but to strengthen the process by recognizing the value that this process has brought the city. There may be problems with Dover, but removing the oversight in the interest of expediency is not the solution.



Larry Josefowski

President, Friends of Old Dover






City of Dover

P.O. Box 475

Dover, Delaware 19903

Phone: 302.736.7010 Fax: 302.736.4217




Date: January 9, 2013  


To:  Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee 

From:  Ann Marie Townshend, AICP, Director of Planning & Community Development 

RE:  Role and Scope of Historic District Zone and Historic District Commission  


In recent months, there have been a number of discussions about the role of Dover’s Historic District, and in particular, the Historic District Commission. Some in the community have faulted the Historic District Commission with adding roadblocks to projects that would support downtown redevelopment , or with creating impediments to economic development and growth. Others see the Historic District Commission as important caretakers of our City’s rich history. Many of the discussions about the Historic District Commission’s role have taken place in informal venues among property owners, business owners, elected officials, and other stakeholders in our community. These discussions have not, in recent years, taken place as a public deliberation, bringing together stakeholders on all sides of the issue to develop a common ground solution that will support economic growth while preserving the City’s historic character .


Given the various concerns that have been shared by a number of stakeholders, I recommend that the Planning Office to hold a public workshop (more than one if necessary) by the end of February 2013 to discuss the role and scope of the Historic District and the Historic District Commission. The Planning Office should report back to the Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee in March 2013 with clear recommendations on whether and how the role and scope of the Historic District and/or the Historic District Commission should be modified.








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