Historic Preservation Commission revises powers

Sunday, November 11, 2007 | 7:36 p.m. CST; updated 10:14 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

COLUMBIA — Columbia’s Historic Preservation Commission is seeking more authority to intervene in the upkeep of historically significant properties.

Pending approval by the City Council, the 28 new revisions would replace the commission’s existing 18 powers, which haven’t been revised in 10 years.

“This was really an effort to make sure that we have the ability to make base with the changes in the historic preservation market,” commission chairman Brian Treece said.

Members of the Historic Preservation Commission have been working with the city to revise its rules since May. At Thursday’s Planning and Zoning meeting, both commissions tried to make the powers and duties’ language for the governmental body as clear as possible.

“Building officials usually are trained to go by the book and not necessarily exercise discretion. We need to have something fairly precisely expressed in a policy or a code to follow,” city Planning and Development Director Tim Teddy said.

Under the proposed changes, properties of historic and architectural significance would be expanded to include archaeological, cultural, social, economic and political significance.

A few Columbia properties that could be covered under the proposed Historic Preservation Commission changes include:

n The home of Ragtime-era pianist J.W. “Blind” Boone, 10 N. Fourth St.;

n The nearly 200-year-old Columbia Cemetery, 30 E. Broadway;

n The Virginia Building, 111 S. Ninth St., which housed one of the state’s first Montgomery Wards and Co. retail outlets; and

n The front lawn of the Boone County Courthouse, would be politically significant because of stump speeches.

The commission has been working since last year to include powers authorized by a state statute. The statute includes a provision for a revolving fund, which is for owners who can’t take care of their historically significant property, Treece said. The revolving fund could be used to find buyers for properties or to provide low-interest loans.

The planning commission expressed concern about one rule that, some members feared, would hinder demolition applicants who have non-historically significant properties.

Mike Martin, who helped draft the revisions, said that would not be so.

“I want to emphasize that the tearing down of a historic property is a rare event,” said Martin, who is a former member of the Historic Preservation Commission.

Another rule change allows the Historic Preservation Commission to review permit applications and hold public hearings about construction processes on landmarks or properties in a historical district.

But the revision would not give the Historic Preservation Commission the power to reject those permits.

Planning commission member Doug Wheeler expressed concern at the meeting about the rule change.

“Without some mechanism where the current property owner volunteers for this privilege, it seems to me that we’re attaching a burden onto this property,” Wheeler said.

The revised powers and duties have been approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission and will be sent to the City Council for approval.

To review the proposed powers and duties, go

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