Open Forum

Historical Building Preservation

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The issue on the table – what should be done when it comes to building maintenance problems around the square? Several buildings have structural problems, the most notable being the wall collapse of a building on Market Street. How can we as a community better approach this situation?

Questions to Consider

  • What ordinances could be put in place for preservation of downtown buildings?
  • Should the local governments help with the cost of maintenance and repair?
  • Is this something that should be the sole responsibility of the building owner?
  • Should buildings on the square be held to the same standards as other homes and structures that are inspected and condemned by the local government?
  • Should condemned structures be allowed to be sold by the local government after being condemned?

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9 comments on “Historical Building Preservation

  1. This is a multiplayer question and will require a multiplayer resolution. First, the building owners need to do their own inspection of the buildings. Many of the buildings are rented so the renters need to notify the owners of problems with the structure, plumbing, and electrical issues. Building owners need to make any repairs necessary to fix all the issues that pertain to the safety to occupants and the public.

    Secondly, the municipality (city and/or county) need to follow up on complaints from renters, other building owners, and private citizens that know or observe any safety issues. If there is no ordinance that gives the municipality the right to inspect then they need to create one.

    Lastly, if a building around the historic area that is open to the public and the owner can not afford to repair it without some kind financial assistance, the municipality should either find some kind of grant that would help the owner with repairs utilizing a split between both the grantor and the owner. The owners have to have some skin in the game. If no grants are available then the municipality should look into some kind of financing program to assist the owner in making the repairs in turn for a lien against the property in case of default. The main issue here is that municipalities cannot provide financing or financing guarantees for private properties. One way to change that paradigm is to look into government financing through grants to the government for historic downtowns. In addition, Public Private Partnerships are more prevalent these days. They could be a way to spread the risk and liability to a larger base and provide a way for the municipality to participate in a legal and cost/benefit sharing project with a private sector organization to help safety concerns but also start the revitalization process.

    • Thanks for that outline Jon! It definitely makes sense that it’ll be a several different approaches here. The Public Private Partnerships are interesting too.

      When you talked with other mayors during your own term as mayor, were there any small towns that you thought had great examples of dealing with this?

  2. Justin Crabtree

    First off I would like to say that I am neither a business owner nor do I own a building on the square.i would like to say that I do business on the square weekly and that I also love and respect the history of our historic downtown.

    This being said I am a firm believer that history does repeat itself. So what can we learn from some of the past history or events that has took place concerning our downtown buildings.. you can easily walk around the square and see a wide range of the level of maintenance that some owners maintain on there property. Some buildings appear to be vacant and not maintained at all, while some have businesses run out of then and can be anywhere from well maintained all the way to dilapidated and falling apart.

    So to answer the question of should there be codes, regulations, inspectors and so forth. I do belive that here should be. If there is a complaint it should be investigated and reported. There also should be some form of codes or regulations enforced . I believe that the codes need to be strong enough that they are no loop holes to wiggle through but at the same time not so strict that it makes it impossible to keep, maintain and afford to own one of historic buildings.

    A question that I wonder about is there any kind of grant money out there or financial help out there to help these buildings. Similar to the money that was used to update the storefronts. What about the rest of the building? The fronts can be freshly painted and beautiful but if the backs of the buildings are collapsing or not well maintained then this creates a whole entire problem in itself.

    One other thing to look at from the cities standpoint. Is the infrastructure up to date to support these buildings or does it need some attention. Examples of this would be water , sewer and drainage.

    So let me say this one more time . You have respect and learn from history because if your not careful it will repeat itself good or bad.

  3. With all the rain lately, I can only hope that our beautiful downtown buildings are in good shape to withstand the elements. It seems like the rain just makes things worse with the older buildings if they’re not maintained properly. The last thing we need is another building collapse.

    As Jon and Justin mentioned – there has to be some codes, regulations, inspections, etc. that the city can do. And do it in a spirit of partnership with a focus on helping any building owners that have problems with their buildings.

  4. Jennie Roles-Walter

    I recently presented at a city meeting about this same issue. I am EXTREMELY concerned about the lack of proper gutters and drainage on the downtown buildings.

    Here is a link to a building collapse very similar to the one on the square last year. Pay close attention to the water pouring out of the gutters onto the brick facade.

    The back of this building and it’s downspouts look identical to 60% of the ones on buildings on the square and this collapse mirrors the one we had last year.

    https://youtu.be/HyI3bgJg1TQ

    There must be historical ordinances in place to protect our history or that is exactly what it will be…..long gone history like the Stone Bridge.

    We must enforce the codes we already have in place and adopt new ones. This is not consistently happening. As far as who pays for what. Building owners should obviously be expected to maintain their own property and the city shouldn’t wait on grants that may take years to get before doing something about this ever present and growing issue.

    Act now before it is too late! The “water” weather we are annually and consistently experiencing isn’t going away but the brick and mortar that isn’t protected on these buildings is.

    We were lucky last year that no one was harmed in the collapse of the building on the square due to “moisture”, this year after all the water the next collapse may claim a life.

    Is NOT wanting to make a building owner mad more important than a life and our heritage? I certainly don’t think it is. I am very disappointed in the lack of preservation of our history.

    Painting the fronts of the buildings and getting new awnings through grants is a wonderful aesthetic addition but it does nothing to protect the integrity of these properties some of which are LITERALLY crumbling. We NEED true advocacy for the preservation of our downtown. I do not want to be a part of the generation that allows her to fall.

    Who will stand up to save our square from itself?

    • Laura Redding

      “Who will stand up to save our square from itself?”

      We the community has to! I love our downtown and want it to be a safe, enjoyable experience for those of us that live here and our visitors. We can’t let what happened in that Medina Youtube video happen again here.

      From my reading of the codes in place currently, our city has the power to enforce building maintenance as part of public safety. I saw the city manager say this is something they’re looking further into. Mr. Collins – if you’re reading this – please take action quickly before those beautiful buildings go the way of the Stone Bridge!

      • Jennie Roles-Walter

        Laura, I agree with you 100%. On March 4, 2019, I presented to the IT and Planning Standing Committee about my concern over lack of code enforcement and need for ordinances.

        I am DEEPLY concerned about the safety and viability of our downtown. The lack of maintenance on may of the buildings couple with the increase in annual rainfall is a recipe for disaster with so many buildings having either failing gutters or no gutters at all.

        The following is an excerpt from my presentation:

        Let me further state that adopting and most certainly enforcing codes is the most economical way to maintain the viability and safety of structures in one’s community which ultimately contributes to potential investors in our community and receiving grant money.

        Fixing up or building a small number of houses, or painting facades while others are falling apart around them, is not a recipe for neighborhood stabilization. Doing major town rehabs/renovations is not an option without avid alderman support and/or massive grants.

        Code enforcement is the one and only tool we have that can bring about better property maintenance and improved physical conditions across the board.
        Not only do local governments need to enforce standard state codes but they should also be actively engaged in adopting more effective, and strategic ways to protect historical property……

        Key Point #4 Plan of Action

        1.City establish/recognize a local historic district, develop a diverse board of community/alderman/businessmen that understands and communicates the benefits of historic district designation; and decide on where the boundary lines should be set to ensure we keep the “local” in your local historic district. I believe we already have this in place and ours is the square itself and one block off.

        2. Develop Legislation — a preservation ordinance — to protect the historic resources in our community.A preservation ordinance is a local statute enacted to protect buildings and neighborhoods from destruction or insensitive rehabilitation. It also establishes a design review board (known as the preservation commission) and process, which are critical for securing historic district designation.(We already have sign ordinances so this is similar and should not be too strict)
        Developing a preservation ordinance that demonstrates the willingness of a community to recognize, invest in, and protect its history is vital to it’s sustainability.

        I believe the first few things immediately implemented should be annual inspections by the city inspector and city engineer of property within the historical district, new gutters and downspouts required of property owners that either do not have any of the aforementioned, are completely beyond repair or needs work. Fine schedules should be created and implemented for work done without a permit that does not meet city residential code. This shouldn’t be difficult as per the Violations and Penalty section of the Building Code adopted by the City, “ It shall be unlawful for any person to violate or fail to comply with any provision of the existing building code.” I would also think this violation would apply to the City for not enforcing its own codes especially when it contributes to the damage of other’s property.

        According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation:
        Each community ordinance should have these 10 basic components:

        1. Statement of purpose. Clearly state the ordinance’s public purpose. Although historic preservation on its own is a legitimate goal, many jurisdictions have found it politically and legally necessary to link historic preservation to broader community objectives.

        2. Definitions. Include easy-to-understand explanations for technical terms to avoid confusion over concepts that might not be easily understood.

        3. Creation of a preservation commission. Spell out the commission’s position within government, the number of members, member qualifications, their terms of office, and the number of members required for a quorum.

        4. Powers and duties of the commission. Write out everything the preservation commission will have the authority to do. Also outline the nature of the commission’s decisions, whether required or recommended.

        5. Criteria for designating historic properties (districts and landmarks).Establish objective and relevant criteria for designating districts and landmarks. In many cases, local governments have used similar criteria to those used for listing in the National Register.

        Tip: Although a few ordinances have required owner consent as a provision for local designation, this practice is generally not advised. Owner consent provisions are tantamount to allowing people to pick and choose which laws they wish to follow.

        6. Procedures for historic landmark and district designation. Explain who can nominate properties for designation; how and when affected property owners are notified; how many public hearings there are; who must approve designations; and what the timetable for these actions is.

        7. Procedures and standards for reviewing alterations and demolitions.Articulate what types of changes are subject to review by the commission. In addition, fully explain the standards, guidelines, and process of review.

        8. How and when to determine economic hardship. This portion of the ordinance is its “safety valve.” It sets forth the process and criteria to be used in determining whether an ordinance imposes an economic hardship on an owner.

        9. Penalties. Ordinances must be enforced to be effective. Penalties can range from fines to incarceration.

        10. Appeal process. Most ordinances spell out a process for appealing decisions rendered by the commission or governing body. An appeals provision helps ensure that a citizen’s right to due process is not diminished.

        Communities seeking to establish historic preservation ordinances should consult their city attorney before proceeding because, while authority to enact such laws exist in every state, individual differences necessitate general legal oversight.

        http://www.savingplaces.org

        In closing, the welfare and wellbeing of our town, history and infrastructure should be a steadfast concern of both our leaders and community. We mustn’t close our eyes to what is literally crumbling before us , we must protect and sustain the viability of our historical downtown so that future generations may also enjoy, appreciate and protect that which our ancestors strived to create and build for us.

        I will leave you two quotes for consideration:
        Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.
        Haile Selassie

        A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. Marcus Garvey

        Thank you very much for your time and consideration; it is greatly appreciated.

        • Laura Redding

          Thank you for putting in the work and presenting that to the IT and Planning Standing Committee! I love that you’re pushing our town forward in this area. Progress here is much needed.

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