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Preservation Brief No. 2: HARB's Role in the Community

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What is HARB?

A public advisory body created by state and local laws, the Board of Historical Architectural Review is known, locally and nationally, as HARB. HARB operates under the authority of the State of Pennsylvania's Historic District Act, General Assembly #167 of 1961, as amended 1963. Lower Merion Township's HARB was created by Ordinance #1902 of 1980.

Who is HARB?

HARB is composed of 9 volunteer members and must include:

  • a registered architect
  • a licensed real estate broker
  • the Chief Building Inspector
  • others who have a knowledge and interest in historic preservation

At least 3 HARB members must be residents and/or have their place of business in one of the historic districts. Appointments by the Board of Commissioners are for 5-year terms, with a maximum of two consecutive terms.

HARB's purpose:

To help protect the distinctive and historic character of Lower Merion Township by considering the effects of proposed changes to buildings and properties within historic districts and on the Historic Properties List and by ruling on their appropriateness.

What is HARB's role?

HARB conducts monthly meetings to accomplish several objectives:

  • review building and demolition permit applications, affecting exteriors only, for buildings within the designated historic districts
  • issue opinions as to whether a proposed action is or is not appropriate to the character of the subject building and the historic district
  • recommend to the Board of Commissioners the appropriateness (or inappropriateness) of a request for a building or demolition permit in designated areas. For those actions approved by the Commissioners, a Certificate of Appropriateness is issued with the required building permit.

HARB has additional responsibilities to:

  • review subdivision plans that contain buildings which are on the Township's list of historic sites
  • establish and maintain an inventory of historic structures in the Township
  • support and participate in continued research and documentation of the history of the Township
  • create and utilize standards for evaluating historic structures
  • assist in educating residents of the Township on the value of historic preservation

What does HARB evaluate?

Any exterior change visible from a public street or way is reviewed if any of the following is proposed:

  • a change in overall plot density-for example: new construction; demolition
  • a change in arrangement-for example: adding or eliminating door or window openings; enclosing a porch; adding or changing a dormer, a fence, a sign; installing shutters or an awning for the first time, etc.
  • a change in design-for example: replacing a door, shutter, fence, sign with a different style
  • a change in material-for example: installing vinyl or aluminum siding; using metal to replace wood railings, etc.
  • a change in texture for example: covering stone or brick with stucco; removing slate for asphalt, etc.

Criteria by which HARB judges "appropriateness":

  • consideration of the historical value and significance of a structure; general design, arrangement, texture, material of the features involved
  • relation of such features to those of other structures in the immediate surroundings
  • settings and relative sizes

Guidelines used by HARB in rendering decisions:

  • "The Secretary of Interiors Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings"
  • local guidelines, usually based on the Standards, and governed by the character of the district

What is HARB's jurisdiction?

It is HARB's responsibility to advise the Board of Commissioners of the appropriateness of proposed changes to the seven local historic districts created by Township ordinances:

  • Harriton Historic District
  • Merion Square Historic District
  • Mill Creek Historic District
  • Ardmore Business Historic District
  • Merion Meeting Historic District
  • Haverford Station Historic District
  • English Village Historic District

Also, a change in local code allows HARB to comment on subdivisions containing historic structures.

Interested in help from HARB?

Board members are available to assist:

  • groups with an interest in historic preservation, such as neighbors considering an historic district or concerned about a specific property or structure
  • individuals who own or occupy buildings on the Township's Historic Properties List and are unsure of how to proceed with exterior maintenance or improvement projects

Current HARB members: (as of 10/2010)

Scott J. Kalner, Chair
Philip E. Franks, Jr., Vice-Chair
Julie Alexandre
Ann Shepard Houston
Philip G. Ivory
Ina Sargen
Sharon L. Sorokin

HARB Secretary:

Greg Prichard, Secretary (and Historic Preservation Planner)

HARB Consultant:

Frens and Frens

For information, call:

Building Regulations Division: 610-645-6164 or
Planning Division: 610-645-6140

HARB BRIEF (rev 8/16)