A few weeks ago I made a request for the city to study creating an ordinance protecting historic properties. I wrote about it in my blog entry Historic Building Preservation. It comes up for discussion at the Plan Commission meeting on Monday, June 9. As with most things in city policy, the two biggest hurdles will be community support and money.
My recommendation is to start with a study determining how many historic buildings exist in the city and finding out what can be done to preserve them. That will cost money that was not budgeted for this year. Before the city can spend money now allocated for some other purpose or take it from a contingency fund (how do you think we paid for that extra road salt last January?), we'll need some feel for whether people will support the whole concept to begin with. Here's how you can help:
1) Send an email to the city clerk's office (email@example.com) stating, "I endorse the city's study to identify historic local buildings which may lead to ordinances restricting the use and remodeling of those buildings in order to preserve them for future generations." If you really want to make a point, you can state "I will support an increase in my property taxes or a voluntary user fee for the purpose of funding this preservation effort and am willing to make a private donation as well."
2) Speak at the public comment period of the Common Council meeting. The next one is June 17 at 7:45 pm. Your comment can be pretty much the same as in 1), but in person it can be more effective.
If this issue is of importance to you, this is the time to speak up. I'll need a lot of help to make this go anywhere!
Click here for a copy of the official 1993 report listing local historic properties: 1993_HistoricInventory.pdf
The official staff report to Monday's Plan Commission reads:
- At the May 6, 2008 Common Council meeting Alderman Scott Berg forwarded a legislative referral to the Plan Commission to consider an historic building preservation ordinance.
- Alderman Berg also issued a memo on May 1, 2008 outlining suggestions for how staff can research and create the ordinance. Attached is his memo for your review.
- In the early 1990’s, an inventory of historic buildings was created by the Community Development Department. Staff also provided an educational presentation to Plan Commission and Common Council on historical building preservation in the City and available grants and programs. In addition, staff drafted an historical building preservation ordinance for consideration by Plan Commission and Common Council. Ultimately, the ordinance was rejected because the City felt it was too draconian and onerous to property owners. No other activity in regard to an ordinance has taken place since this time.
- The Mayor has identified that by statute, the 2035 Comprehensive Plan is to include a Historical Building Preservation section. That could be a possible venue for this discussion.
- Staff’s direct response to Alderman Berg’s memo is as follows:
- Item 1: Funding would be required to update the historic building inventory. The last inventory was conducted in 1993 at a cost of $14,000.00. An estimate of the cost today is not known because the inventory is complete and would need updating; however, the existing inventory is 15 years old. Funding would need to be identified, possibly in the 2009 budget.
- Item 2: Plan Commission and Common Council can direct staff to conduct a local, regional or national search for what other communities have done in this regard.
- Item 3: Currently, VK Development is planning on preserving the Ruby Farm house and outbuildings west of Calhoun Road. The Dousman-Dunkel-Behling house is preserved and the City has implemented a recommended preservation of the Village Railroad Depot in the Village Area Neighborhood Plan and completed an architectural assessment of the building.
- Item 4: This could be addressed through the 2035 Comprehensive Plan process.
- Item 5: The creation of any ordinances or implementation of tools would need to wait until staff was directed by Plan Commission and Common Council directed staff to undertake the previous items discussed in this report.
Please note that items #2 and #5 are not currently within the scope of services for 2035 Comprehensive Plan update.
6. Staff is requesting that Plan Commission review the referral and provide direction to staff, with particular guidance given to items 1, 2, 4 and 5 of Alderman Berg’s memo."