Thursday, August 8, 2013

Historic Preservation Ordinance #19-13

In May 1990 the Tippecanoe County “Interim Report” for the Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory was published. The Chauncey-Stadium National Historic Register District was created in 2002. But national districts offer very limited protections to historic neighborhoods.


So in September of 2010 I began work on the creation of a local historic preservation district for West Lafayette.


There is probably no need to rehearse the advantages of historic preservation. Since the 1930’s, historic preservation districts and historic preservation commissions have proven to be an effective way of enhancing historic neighborhoods. They protect the investments of owners and residents, often offering tax incentives to property owners. They aid in professional recruitment, as local preservation suggests to prospective employees a higher quality of life. They honor architectural design and encourage a more innovative use of construction materials. They encourage the ultimate in recycling; that of an entire building!

In Indiana, they are used in cities from Anderson to Lafayette (1993) to Zionsville.

On June 6, 2011, Ordinance #9-11 was passed. It served as a statement of the city’s willingness to establish a historic preservation district. Ordinance#19-13 shows how the preservation district will work.

Many thanks to Development Director Chandler Poole and his staff for the time and energy they put into this ordinance. It wasn’t easy! Even the well-documented Chauncey-Stadium Historic District was missing some paper work. (Apparently the Zionsville law firm that did the work had lunch at Harry’s one afternoon and a few blocks of Stadium disappeared!)

Thanks also to the members of the historic preservation commission for their thoroughness and persistence: Drew Freeman, Jeanette Bennett, Mary Cook, Persis Newman, Gerry McCartney, Jim Garland, Kelly Bush, Otie Kilmer, and Mary Whittaker. Many thanks to city attorney Eric Burns who did the final edit of the ordinance and sent it on to city council. Finally, a special thank you to Kurt Wahl, “on loan” from the city of Lafayette’s Historic Commission, who served as our mentor and prepared the final map. This is a solid and reasonable work product.

What happens next? There is a “first phase” of the ordinance. This is a three-year period during which the ordinance applies only to demolition and new construction. During this time the commission will have to refresh its membership. Most of its current members have had their terms expire. The commission will also have time to develop a resource manual much like Lafayette has, and to begin an educational process in New Chauncey. The “second phase”, which includes obtaining a Certificate of Appropriateness for renovations, begins after three years unless a majority of the property owners objects in writing to the Commission.

The whole process is meant to be helpful, not adversarial. (The practices of the Lafayette Historic Commission are instructive here.) It is helpful both to the individual property owner, and helpful to the city as it develops a multi-class, multi-generational near campus neighborhood that will make other cities envious.

It is part of a four-part process envisioned for the New Chauncey neighborhood during the conversation among New Chauncey residents, Purdue Research Foundation, CSO architects, and the city around the construction of Wang Hall. A land use plan was to be put in place for the neighborhood. That has been accomplished. Older structures would be protected by the creation of a historic preservation district. New structures would follow guidelines to be developed for a zoning “overlay”. A redevelopment entity (“New Chauncey Rebound” J) would be created to marshal the resources necessary to renew the near campus neighborhood from Stump Town to Kingston to Chauncey.

This may not be the ordinance I would have preferred. (I believe the appeals process is redundant. I think it might be helpful, as in the Barnes and Thornburgh ordinance template developed by Indiana Landmarks, for the commission to be able to buy and sell property. AND the Lafayette ordinance has a nice section on signs!) It took too long. But it I believe it puts us in a good place between “too much, too soon” and “too little, too late”!

The ordinance’s second reading will take place on Tuesday, September 3rd. at 6:30pm.