Comments on Draft Historic Preservation Ordinance

Here is a note that I sent to staff and council. I will not be at the committee meeting today as I have to spend some time on my real job; the one where I spend less time but pays the bills….

I wanted to share my thoughts on the proposed Historic Preservation Ordinance, as I will not be at the COW meeting on Monday. I appreciate the effort put into the latest proposal and this proposal is vastly improved when compared to previous drafts.

  1. Include the language required by SHPO – Based on my discussion with Aaron Reeves, I believe that this was done already.
  2. For Landmark properties provide incentives or partial matching grants for “Bricks and Mortar” work, and grants for the researching of a properties historic significance and a property’s historic integrity. I would suggest handling these much like we handle our highly successful facade improvement grants. I would continue support the use of TIF to preserve and enhance key historic elements of properties. I personally believe that any thing we can do at the local level will pale in comparison to the 40% state / federal tax credits. However not all properties will be able to access those funds.
  3. For Potential Landmark properties provide incentives or partial matching grants for the researching of a properties historic significance and a property’s historic integrity.
  4. Include the right of any citizen to nominate a property. It is not my goal to limit the power of our citizens to start a discussion.
  5. Remove most of the language regarding Potential Landmarks. Leave in language requiring the HPC to maintain a list of Potential Landmarks. Those Potential Landmark properties would continue to be protected by requiring a review of any demolition permit. There are tremendous historic assets downtown including what was called the DMC “Historic District” which should continue to be protected.

Here are some more specific concerns I share with the Rochester Conservancy; in general I find the Conservancy suggestions per to be reasonable:

  1. Section .030(C) 1(3) talks about removal from the potential landmark list. Later in the ordinance under .060, the process for removal from the landmark list is stated as being the reverse of approval. However, the process under .030 is a short rejection. The public, the 106Group, the HPC, and the council have reviewed inclusion on the potential list; as such removal from this list should only be done after the same weight of evidence is presented. These two sections represent a contradiction within the ordinance. The potential list also includes candidates for historic districts, allowing property owners to opt-out individually negates the adjoining property owners’ choice to create a cohesive district. We do not allow individual properties to opt out of other zoning regulations.
  2. The ordinance talks about council action, but never specifies any of these actions will take place after a public hearing by the council. The Rochester Conservancy believes preservation matters are of the same level as development issues and as such should only but considered after an open public meeting in front of elected officials. If a final plat of some edge development requires a public hearing, why not the demolition of a landmark?
  3. Demolition by neglect is poorly defined. We proposed moving it to definitions and adding a clause that demolition by neglect would make the property owner ineligible for a demolition permit. Demolition by neglect creates blight and has always been the result of spite, whether it involves preservation or not. This is a chance for the city leaders to take that option off the table for the unethical property owners who wish to vandalize our community.
  4. The preservation community also sent a list of some additional technical changes all of which appear reasonable.

Because a significant portion of the community has weighed in on these issues; my preference would be to have a version of the ordinance that incorporates these changes for the public to weigh.

Regards,

Michael Wojcik
Rochester City Council – Ward 2

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