Q: I just moved here, what's all this about an NCD?
older neighborhoods in San Antonio have taken steps to help preserve or
even restore the original character of their neighborhood through a
process called Neighborhood Conservation District. Think of it as
"Historic light". It is not as detailed or heavy handed as a
Historic designation but it does help preserve the original design
elements and stylings of these older homes.
Q: Is it LAW or is it a Guideline?
NCD is Municipal Law. It was voted into law by the City Council
and it is recorded along with the Zoning Ordinances. Even though
they are often referred to as 'Codes', they are in fact LAW. The
consequences for not complying with the NCD or other parts of the
Zoning laws, usually do not start with criminal proceedings but they
can lead to criminal convictions. And, violations can be expensive.
Q: Who wrote the law?
Beacon Hill NCD is an unusual law, because it was substantially written
by the people in the community that it affects. Most laws are
written by legislators in another city but this law was drafted over
the course of almost a year of meetings with people living or working
in the community. With the help of city staff, the elements of
the NCD were organized into the language that became the NCD and it was
then passed into law by the City Council.
Q: So, Where exactly is the NCD in the law?
Conservation Districts are defined in the law at 35.335
defines the Purpose of NCDs and how they are formed, what they must
cover, when each was adopted and describes it as a Zoning Overlay,
making it a function of the Zoning of a parcel of land.
Q: How did the NCD become law?
city created a provision in the Uniform Development Code (UDC), often referred to as the
zoning code, for Neighborhood Conservation Districts (NCD). It appears
in the Uniform Development Code at 35-335
and describes the purpose,
criteria and the procedures for creating an NCD and recognizes the adopted NCDs.
On December 15,
2005, San Antonio City Council passed Ordinance #101890, adopting
the Beacon Hill Area NCD as NCD-5, ordering it incorporated into the
city's Zoning codes which are part of the UDC. The Ordinance recognizes all the time
and effort and the input of everyone in the community and recognizes
the document as a statement of the community's intentions. [UDC 35-335(c)(E)]
Q: Who enforces the NCD?
City of San Antonio Development Services Department (DSD) is charged
with enforcing the NCD. When you apply for a building permit,
they are required to review your plans for compliance with both the UDC
and the NCD. If you are doing work that does not require a permit,
you are still required to comply with both the UDC and the NCD. [UDC 35-335(f)(1)]
Q: What happens if there is a conflict between the UDC and the NCD?
The NCD wins. Section 35-335(c)(2)(B) makes this clear.
Q: What types of properties does the NCD regulate?
NCD regulates "STRUCTURES" as either Residential or Non-Residential.
The NCD is part of the zoning of the land but the zoning does not
dictate which part of the NCD applies, the structure does.
Q: What happens if I build something that does not comply with the NCD?
will likely be required to remove it or if possible, convert it to a
structure that complies. If you refuse to make required changes
you may be cited, fined, required to appear in court and it could lead
to criminal charges against you. The NCD is part of the law. [UDC: 35-335(g)]
Q: Is it easier to get forgiveness?
is certainly riskier. As stated above the consequences can be
severe. In addition, you will be required to apply for the
permits that you skipped in the first place and one penalty is a
doubling of the permit price. You may then be required to apply
to the Board of Adjustments for a variance from the UDC or NCD and that
will be expensive, timely and will likely put you in conflict with your
neighbors that want the NCD enforced. That's not exactly forgiveness. [UDC: 35-335(g)]
Q: It's MY HOUSE and this is TEXAS! I can do what I want to it.
it's your property and this is Texas but, you live in a community and
about a dozen years ago, all the neighbors in the community got
together and agreed on a few ways to get along. You were invited if you
lived or worked here then. One of the agreements was on design standards
for the community. That agreement took more than a year to put
together and it took many private and public meetings in the community
before the San Antonio City Council agreed that it represented the will
of the community and passed it into law. That agreement is the
Neighborhood Conservation District or NCD. That document defines
many of the design standards regarding the exterior of your house.
And, it's the law, and it's enforced.
Q: What is the purpose of the NCD?
The purpose of an NCD can be quoted from the City of San Antonio UDC
- As a matter of public policy, the city
council aims to preserve, protect, enhance, and perpetuate the value of
these residential neighborhoods or commercial districts through the
establishment of neighborhood conservation districts. [35-335(a)(1)]
- Involve neighborhoods in developing
neighborhood-specific plans that define the character and pattern of
development for their neighborhood, and that establish infill
development guidelines. [35-335(a)(3)(C)]
Preservation and enhancement of the city's important historic and
cultural characteristics, including architectural styles and historic
To reduce conflict and prevent blighting caused by incompatible and
insensitive development, and to promote new compatible development; [35-335(a)(2)(D)]
- To provide residents and property owners with a planning tool for future development; [35-335(a)(2)(F)]
To protect and strengthen desirable and unique physical
features, design characteristics and recognized identity and charm;
Q: But my neighbor got away with it!
may be what he told you. Or, he may not have been caught yet.
The neighborhood is filled with people that want to protect the
homes that they have invested in and most violators are reported by
neighbors or passers-by. Many people have been required to tear
down structures and additions that were not lawfully constructed.
It's cheaper and easier to do it right the first time.
Q: There is no way that I need a permit to build a carport!
In fact you do, and it not only has to be structurally sound but it must comply with the NCD.
You cannot simply nail a lien-to to the side of your house, even
if it is to protect your car from hail damage. You must make
provision for rain runoff so that your carport does not dump rain
runoff on your neighbor's property. You must also comply with the
design standards that include setbacks, materials, scale, proportion,
profile and slope.
Q: Is there anything I can do to my property without a permit?
Yes, and the city even has published a list. You can view the list by clicking here.