Historic Preservation Committee redefines role and seeks public input



The Town of Merrill Historic Preservation Committee has met monthly since February and has spent several months reassessing its role. Previously, according to the city ordinance, they were responsible for proposing and / or approving nominations for historic districts, houses and / or sites in the city, as well as holding hearings before designating them as such. They also had broad powers related to setting standards for properties designated as historic and regulating the construction, reconstruction, alteration and / or demolition of those properties, all in some detail. .
The demise of the TB Scott Mansion earlier this year prompted the committee to start meeting regularly to hopefully prevent the demolition of historic properties without specific committee review and approval and greater public awareness, and to also begin to play a more active role in promoting the preservation of the historic properties of the community.
Initially, Committee members discovered that they might have different visions of the Committee’s purpose, and it took some time for them to come up with a common vision to move forward, but during the meeting of the Historic Preservation Committee on July 7, the group considered a huge change to their previous role (s) and recommended that the ordinance be amended accordingly.
Now, the public will have the opportunity to provide their views at a public hearing hosted by and prior to the Merrill Town Planning Commission on Tuesday, August 3 at 6:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber at Town Hall in Merrill. [To attend remotely, call 225.800.2151 and enter PIN # 456 483 877#.]
A New Look at Historic Preservation
“In light of the recent demolition of many historic structures in Merrill, the Merrill Historic Preservation Committee has been activated to be a watchdog for iconic Merrill structures,” said Steve Sabatke, City Councilor and Committee Member of historical preservation.
“The intention of this committee is not to interfere with building owners, but to showcase Merrill’s heritage, instill pride in ownership and promote the beauty of our city. Therefore, the Merrill Historic Preservation Ordinance has been amended to help, advise and motivate building owners rather than restricting them, ”he said of the amendment being discussed. the public hearing.
Proposed changes to the ordinance
The public hearing will focus on the proposed amendment to the Town of Merrill Historic Preservation Ordinance. 105-314 to 105-322, which will change the scope and powers of the Historic Preservation Committee.
If this amendment is adopted, the main role of the Historic Preservation Committee will be to:
• Assign historic structure designations to properties, IF owner consents to designation.
• Recognize historic structures, sites and neighborhoods with an appropriate plaque.
• Cancel designations of historic structures to properties at the request of the owner.
• Review requests for demolition of historic structures and reject or approve them and issue a “historic permit” permitting demolition if demolition is approved.
• Create non-binding historic preservation advisory standards for structures that have received a historic structure designation.
One of the other major differences between the old ordinance and the proposed revised ordinance will be a new emphasis on historic properties by maintaining a “street perspective” which is defined as having a “general resemblance to the outward appearance of d ‘origin of the building or structure from the street or sidewalk’, which is radically different from the detailed list of requirements for buildings designated as historic previously.
Other important changes:
• The revised Ordinance states: “No property may be designated without the express written consent of the owner.
• The membership structure of the Historic Preservation Committee would no longer require that the composition of the Committee include a registered architect, a historian and a licensed real estate broker, but simply two aldermen and three resident citizens.
The intention of the changes
Summary by City Manager Dave Johnson. “Basically, the Committee has expressed an interest in exercising an advisory function rather than an executive function,” he said.
“The goal is to preserve historic structures without making their preservation too onerous for the owner,” Johnson said. “Some cities have historic preservation ordinances that specify the type of materials that should be used when working on a historic home, which can dramatically increase the costs of restoration or preservation. “
“We’re more interested in preserving the ‘street view’ of historic homes, that is, we want them to look old and authentic while being seen from the street.”
“This means that homeowners could install new energy-efficient, maintenance-free windows that are made from materials other than wood but that look like wood. They could replace the old wood coating that will no longer hold the paint with a maintenance-free coating that looks like wood, ”he explained.
“Anyone with a listed historic house and wishing to demolish the structure should apply to the Historic Preservation Committee,” he added.
The ordinance does not address “historic business structures” at this time, but may do so in the future, Johnson said.
The Historic Preservation Committee has also shown renewed interest in recognizing designated historic buildings with a plaque, prepared and erected at the request and expense of the City, where it is readily visible to passing pedestrians.
Provide a contribution
Anyone with ideas or comments on proposed revisions to the order should plan to attend the public hearing, in person or remotely.

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