City staff will hold a community meeting to discuss the proposed Historic Preservation Ordinance at 6 p.m. next Thursday at the Activities Center of the George Caravalho Sports Complex.
A large amount of input from the public at the last City Council meeting led Council to ask staff to make some revisions and conduct more public outreach. The purpose of this meeting will be to discuss revisions and give interested parties the opportunity to learn all the aspects of the ordinance, including the pros and cons of an “opt-in” provision.
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“There was a lot of confusion and questions at the last meeting,” said City Planning Manager Lisa Webber. “One of the directions we were given was to have another community meeting.”
Webber added that the modifications suggested by the council made it appropriate to take the ordinance back to the Planning Commission, which will happen in October. The ordinance could then go back to the City Council in November and have a second reading at the Council’s only meeting in December.
“Our idea is to have this in place by the end of the year,” she explained.
The existing ordinance, which restricts what can be done to a list of 49 properties as well as offers benefits to property owners, does not have a “sunset” and will remain in effect in perpetuity until a final ordinance is passed.
One thing that this meeting should remedy is the confusion of the community – and several property owners – as to what incentives are included.
“Some people are still unclear as to what those incentives are,” explained City Planner and project manager David Peterson. “One is the waiver of fees, one is the (use of the) Mills Act, and then those that the Planning Commission wanted us to add, which would be streamlined permitting and technical assistance from staff and of course, the use of the historic building codes.”
Webber said that many of those addressing the council were unaware of activities that could be taken on designated historic resources that don’t require a special permit.
“We need to clarify those and make sure that the list is out there because there is quite a bit of discretion and flexibility as to what you can do,” she said.
“People are concerned if they have a historic property that they won’t be able to do anything to it, which is not the case,” Peterson added. “There are 12 exemptions of what you can do without any sort of a permit.”
Another issue is the duration of a penalty if something does get demolished; originally a 10-year moratorium was placed on the property, but discussions have moved that number closer to five years.
Both Planning Commissioners and City Council members were concerned that property owners be given an “opt out” clause, but Webber said that now, “there is more in favor for ‘opt in’ over ‘opt out.’”
And what if a property owner opts in and then changes their mind?
“Once you’ve voluntarily added yourself to the list, if at some future point in time you decide you don’t want to be on that list, what’s the procedure?” she said.
She said that one of the considerations for the city is establishing a funding mechanism for purchasing property that is threatened with demolition. A one-year moratorium is proposed for anyone who wants to demolish their property to give the owner time to research alternatives and the city time to come up with resources to either protect the resource in place or relocate it.
Whatever happens, city staff is expecting the conversation to be lively.
“We anticipate pretty strong feelings on both sides of the fence and we’ll be right there in the middle,” Webber said.