Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 23, 2017

Patterson discusses Historic Preservation Ordinance changes

Sep 18, 2017

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL

While changes to the Historic Preservation Commission ordinance, that will go to second reading during the Washington City Council meeting this week, will clarify the commission’s duties, it will not provide the commission with additional powers.

Commission chair Mary Patterson said the ordinance, which enters its second reading during the Washington City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Washington Public Library, will give the commission the ability to recommend areas be designated historic landmarks. The addition outlines the process for doing that, as well as the rights of the owners.

“We decided we had lost enough historic areas with people who were unaware were even historic, and it was time to ask for the additions,” Patterson said.

She said the original ordinance approved when the commission was formed was taken from a template provided by the state. The original ordinance says the commission will “preserve and protect” historic resources. She said there was nothing in the original ordinance that gave the commission any way to protect anything. The amendments are an “add on” to the ordinance that provides more responsibility. Patterson stressed the commission only provides recommendations and the city council makes the decisions regarding historic areas.

She said any property in which the owner wants recognized as historic, if it meets the criteria, can be declared a historic landmark. Patterson said the owner has to agree to the status. Due to the complexity to having a property recognized at the state level, the addition would allow the commission, with the approval of the city council, to declare properties locally significant.

She said the Commission does have access to grants for building rehabilitation. She said the Commission has many resources for building owners that can assist in redoing a building. She said it would be helpful for the Commission to have a “pause in the process before things disappear forever.” She stressed the Commission is not asking for the authority to give permission for a homeowner to make changes, such as painting or remodeling a room.

The commission can also call for a demolition review if a structure deemed historically significant is to be demolished. She said that the commission can make the recommendation, but the council will make the decision whether to grant review.

Patterson has discussed two state grants given that can help people with historical property get money to preserve the property as an alternative to demolishing a historic building.

Patterson said the city’s Historic Preservation Commission could help property owners access the grants. She said the Historic Resource Development Program (HRDP) pays for 50 cents of each dollar of approved work on the building. Awards are announced in late June. During the last cycle, $595,922 was awarded to 27 projects. While none of this year’s grant recipients were for private residences, there have been in the past.

She said the awards depend on the competition for the grants.

The other program the Commission uses is in the Iowa Income Tax Credit Program.

Local help with applying is available through the commission of Main Street Washington.

Work completed under either program must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

Patterson said the tax credit program has not been used much in the area.

Patterson said that she hopes people who have questions about historic preservation will contact her.

She can be reached at 319-653-5208, or through Washington City Hall.

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