Photo by snapdragon.
I don’t know about you, but the comfort and feel of my apartment as a structure itself was the last item on my checklist of places to live. Rather, near the top of the list were desires to live with available parking spaces, walking distance to downtown, friendly neighborhood residents, etc.
Maybe your checklist is similar.
If you moved into your home as a young couple with a toddler, you may have wanted to first confirm the school district was well-run and produced high-grading students, or maybe you wanted to live so many miles from a fire department, or maybe you wanted to double-check there was no flashing street light within so many feet of where you wanted your bedroom.
Fact is, as scores of residents have confirmed to me, you likely moved into your home — after first going down earlier items on your list — with the home itself being the last consideration. If the school system was poor, you looked somewhere else. If the fire station was too far, you looked for a closer neighborhood. If the fire hydrant looked rusty, you chose a newer-looking one. Agreed?
Is it therefore surprising to you that after the Local Historic District Study Committee mailed 2,245 surveys in the summer of 2008 to property owners throughout the city’s national register historic district, 896 people responded (which at 37% is an awesome response rate if you’ve performed mass mailings like I have, accustomed to averages of 7-15%) — and 72% of those respondents believed they lived in historically-significant homes and supported preservation initiatives?
When specifically asked if they’d agree to the creation of a local historic district commission to review plans for new additions on their property or their neighbors’ properties with the intent to retain the historic character of the neighborhood, 48% responded yes, 35% responded on the fence, and 17% responded no.
Using this methodology (and you can view the complete survey and responses here) and further based on questions, answers, and feedback I heard at a recent hearing of the study committee, I support establishing a local historic district to comprise some 800 homes and businesses downtown and along portions of High Street.
I respect homeowners who don’t want an additional layer of government bureaucracy — for nor do I. But creation of a LHD would not create additional government layers; rather, instead of the historic commission being asked to approve today, properties in the proposed district would fall under a special district historic commission.
Paint your house without approval.
Repair your driveway without approval.
Renovate your floors or basement without approval.
But if you want to build, add, or remove the view of anything structurally-seen from the street and your property is at least 75 years old, when you request the building permit, the district commission would be asked to step in — only when the building permit is pulled.
If you moved into your home because the neighborhood ranked higher up that list, then why wouldn’t you want your neighbor to maintain his or her historically-significant home to preserve that neighborhood? Are our feelings all that different?
Share your thoughts below.