Paint color clarified

Published 7:39 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2023

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After delaying amendments to Suffolk’s Historic Conservation Overlay District to clarify paint colors, Suffolk City Council unanimously approved the update.

During its July 19 meeting, council members asked for a delay in approval to address exterior building paint color guidelines that some believed needed to be more specific.

Council revisited two public hearings on amending both historic district guidelines and Chapter 31 of the Unified Development Ordinance during its Wednesday, Aug. 19 meeting at City Hall. 

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City Director of Planning and Community Development Kevin Wyne reviewed the key changes to the historic district guidelines at the meeting.

“A lot has shifted from a HLC (Historical Landmarks Commission) approval and a longer public hearing process to an administrative staff level of approval,” Wyne said. “That’s important because it saves applicant time. It saves staff a tremendous amount of time, and that includes things like windows and other replacement materials. Small building and site improvements like fences for instance, would have to go before the HLC.”

He said the department will keep this in-house to save property owners time by allowing them to go through an administrative process.

Wyne explained they wanted to get their sign regulations in the district consistent with the base zoning district but pointed out that it needed to be more consistent going into the historic guidelines update. 

Language on paint colors was added following council’s July 19 meeting with detail that refined paint choices with four separate acceptable palettes, he told Council. These colors will be reviewed administratively, with any pigments outside the palette reviewed by the HLC.

The color palettes are divided into four collections — PPG Paints, Charleston paint colors, PPG Paints historic paint colors, PPG Paints New England paint colors, and Sherwin Williams colors. Wyne said users can mix and match these palette colors between collections due to the possibility of pigments being “substantially similar.”

Following his presentation, Councilman John Rector asked if the colors presented “overlap” with other paint brands such as Benjamin Moore, that have historical palettes. 

Wyne said that all palettes are fairly consistent.

“Almost every major paint brand has a historic palette. They’re all pretty similar to one another,” Wyne responded. “The reason we felt it necessary to [identify] these palettes is to give folks an idea of what they will look like and what options they have.”

He explained they’re not required to use these colors but noted the palettes come with hex codes that can be taken to paint retailers where they can select the brand of paint they prefer. 

“At least they have a color that’s in our palette that they can work with,” Wyne said.

Rector wanted to know if they had to pick an exact color from those palettes.

“Yes,” Wyne affirmed. “Or substantially similar.”

Councilman Leroy Bennett also followed up, asking if there were guidelines for the type of materials that could be used for the historic district. 

Wyne explained that substantial guidelines govern this, noting the last major update to the historic guidelines was some 20-30 years ago.

“There [has] been an advancement to the quality of the alternative material, especially vinyl, that didn’t just exist at that time,” he said. “What we’re more interested in now moving forward, and the guidelines speak to this, is not necessarily the material used as much as it meeting the matching design.”

With no one from the public speaking either in support or opposition to the amendment at either of the public hearings, Council accepted them on an 8-0 unanimous vote. 

They also revisited an ordinance for text amendments to Chapter 2 of the city code that was also approved 8-0.