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October 02, 2008
City approves 'heritage landmark' ordinance and consultant
CHATFIELD, Minnesota (STPNS) -- The Chatfield City Council took a figurative walk down the historic preservation lane during its Sept. 22 meeting.
Councilors approved a policy statement on the protection of significant heritage landmarks and authorized an amendment to the city's heritage preservation ordinance. Also, they approved hiring Robert Vogel of Pathfinder Cultural Resources Management of Spring Grove as a consultant for historic planning preservation in 2009.
It appeared the preservation of Potter Auditorium might be a leading concern for the new formalities, as Potter was mentioned specifically a few times.
Also, it was noted the city's Heritage Preservation Committee could use a couple members.
The council first discussed and approved a policy statement as follows:
"The mayor and city council direct all city staff to consider the effects of city projects, including projects that require building permits, on properties that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places or have been determined eligible for designation as Heritage Preservation Sites. Furthermore, city departments, boards and commissions will give the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) and its staff a reasonable opportunity to comment on such projects.
"If a significant heritage resource must be damaged or destroyed by an undertaking involving the city, the Heritage Preservation Commission is authorized to make every reasonable effort to recover any important historical or architectural data the property contains."
It was further defined as an interim statement.
Vogel explained that the city's HPC has been in existence, but mainly on hiatus lately. His work as a consultant and this policy would help get it operating again. It would have the HPC and city as a whole look at where they want to end up, which became the policy statement.
The policy, he stated, says that all who work for the city will give extra consideration to projects. The HPC, according to Vogel, will strive to assemble a list of "significant heritage resources," which may consist of properties eligible for or already on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), a program administered by the National Park Service.
He listed Potter Auditorium as an example of being eligible for NRHP listing.
"This is not to preserve everything old, but to preserve what's old and important," stated Vogel, noting that in two years consideration of such properties would come as second nature.
Mayor Curt Sorenson said it was moving the HPC along in a proper direction. He also pointed out it's a "soft sell" for citizens regarding the consideration of properties as heritage preservation sites.
Councilor Ken Jacobson asked about the NRHP. Vogel said that the HPC in Chatfield would be the "local equivalent," adding that the HPC could recognize and nominate properties as heritage preservation or NRHP sites.
Councilor Brenda Johnson said that since Chatfield is a "certified local government," it can make the designations, while other city governments may not be able to.
She also clarified that as a public and city official her historic home would not be included in the program or partake of any benefits the program could offer.
City Clerk Joel Young stated in a memo on the topic, "The purpose of this policy statement is to provide significant heritage resources with some measure of protection against projects that are financed, licensed, permitted or assisted by the city of Chatfield."
Next, consideration was given to amending the city code chapter dealing with heritage preservation. Young recommended that "heritage preservation site" be changed to "Chatfield Heritage Landmark" through the ordinance.
Vogel noted it had originally been created based on a New York City code. He wanted it to "make it useful" to get properties listed as heritage preservation sites and get the benefits of that designation to citizens, matching the ordinance to the city's culture and capabilities, to streamline the process.
Vogel also wanted to make it a partnership between the city and the resident. Before being amended, he felt the ordinance had set up the city and resident involved in an adversarial role.
As amended, the designation would be straightforward and treated as a zoning process. Vogel said current process made it hard to get a city building permit in less than 90 days, while the amended process should occur more quickly.
With everything needed in order, Vogel said a request should come before the next meeting of the HPC to be certified. Then a "certificate of appropriateness" would go with the building permit. He anticipated it would take no more than 35 to 40 days, even for larger projects.
Vogel clarified, it doesn't fundamentally alter what the HPC process is about, "it streamlines it."
City attorney Fred Suhler then offered his thoughts. He had just read an article that a farmhouse of 120 years old in Bloomington was peeling and had lead in its paint. It needed to be painted, but the landowner said he couldn't afford it and wanted to tear it down. He wondered how a similar situation might play out under the amended ordinance.
Vogel answered that a master "plan of treatment" would be created and tailor made for Chatfield. He said the HPC would look at what's most likely to happen and how to deal with it. There would not be arm twisting, he stated.
Johnson said the Chatfield amendment came from the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office.
Jacobson asked if a property, once designated as a heritage landmark site, could be "undesignated." Vogel replied it's hardly every done, but could be a type of reverse process.
He also noted that the amendment could allow work with absentee owners.
Sorenson added that people had been "standoffish" about the process in the past, but now he felt a partnership was a big plus.
Finally, the city discussed and then voted to hire Pathfinder and Vogel to serve as a preservation planning consultant through 2009 with tasks designated to include, but not be limited to such items as attending the HPC meetings; preparing at least two studies on the nomination of heritage landmarks (with one being Potter and the other not named); providing training to city staff; reviewing development projects and applications for city permits; doing public education and outreach; providing information on building preservation, rehabilitation and restoration; and preparing Certified Local Government grants to help with the financing of heritage preservation projects in 2010.
The annual compensation will be $7,200. There is to be additional compensation of $75 per hour for Chatfield HPC meeting attendance, presentations and other similar work.
Young added that the contract is "goal oriented."
As the contract was coming to a vote, councilor Russ Smith posed a question, wondering who owned Potter Auditorium (Chatfield School District) and what would happen if the owner wanted to tear it down?
Sorenson said he didn't know if it could be stopped, but stressed trying to work with the owner in identifying repairs, offering suggestions for funding help and more.
Vogel added, however, the property owner must concur. He also noted there had been a meeting with the school district and "we are on the same page so far."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was written by listening to the webstreaming of the meeting available at http://chatfield.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=5
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