Save Your Historic Neighborhood

Yesterday, I wrote about the APNA board meeting where the propose Baffert project and removal of the property from our HPZ was extensively discussed. I want to follow up on the subject.

Bill Duffy, Chair of our historic board (APHZAB), recently posted an excellent email to our listserv on the subject. Most of it is quoted here:

Mr. Kappler, the developer, wants to remove the vacant property at S 6th Ave and E 18th St. from the HPZ so his planned project will not be limited by HPZ requirements.
When Mr. Kappler presented an earlier version of his proposal to the Armory Park Historic Zone Advisory Board (APHZAB)  last March and asked for our support, we declined to do so. As stated in the Legal Action Report from that meeting: ‘Removal of property from the HPZ is irreversible, it encourages commercial encroachment upon the district and the proposed “swap” [with Wanslee Motors] is inequitable in terms of square feet and lack of adjacency to the neighborhood. Any precedential value of such a decision would not be in the best interests of the District. On the motion made by Phyllis Factor, seconded by Martha McClements, APHZAB rejects the proposal to remove the address from the Historic District. The motion was carried unanimously.’
No property has been removed from the Armory Park HPZ since it was established 40 years ago. If a precedent is now established to permit a developer or property owner in the HPZ to get a property rezoned to avoid HPZ requirements, other developers will follow and I believe the Armory Park HPZ will become nonviable.

Bill is not the only person to express concern about how city government is disregarding neighborhood viability and even the law under economic pressure. I have written here about other communities with similar experiences as has our Ward 6 council member, Steve Kozachik. Here are a few of Steve’s words speaking in his article about the Speedway/Euclid student housing project :

…design standards called out in Neighborhood Preservation Zone (NPZ) [think HPZ] manuals kick in. There was a recent situation in a midtown neighborhood in which staff interpreted the terms of the NPZ one way, while the neighbors who had participated in drafting it had a contrary interpretation. Staff issued a permit and construction went forward. Laying the framework for when and how to allow input as to interpretations for these design manuals and the weight that input will be given is what this study session item is about.

The city participated in putting all of these plans together. So did residents. None of them were crafted by a single entity without a wide and lengthy public process. The Unified Development Code says they need to be adhered to. We need to find some basic harmony between what the UDC calls for and how we’re in fact operating.

City staff has become very casual about interpreting (ignoring) those parts of the Uniform Development Code (UDC) which are not convenient for the proposal before them. The pressure on PDSD staff and all of city government is to promote development to bring more revenue into city coffers. This creates a conflict of interest since city employees are motivated to bring in more money to save their jobs. Most communities and individuals cannot afford to go to court to demand that city government should comply with the UDC (the law). That is why citizen pressure and even political action will likely be needed to protect neighborhoods, historic or otherwise.

Again quoting Steve K from his article about the Houghton East rezoning: The Metro Chamber felt compelled to send out this rather predictable graphic.

This is the kind of pressure being placed on city officials. Instead of supposed job creation, think of neighborhood preservation and how the thumb positions would be reversed.

The first opportunity for Armory Park residents to express their feelings about the threats to our communities is next Monday at the Baffert developer’s public meeting held to introduce his project to the neighborhood. I don’t offer an opinion on the merits of his project; that is for you to evaluate. I do ask that you express in the strongest terms that the property must not be removed from the Armory Park HPZ. The survival of Armory Park and the other four HPZs as historic neighborhoods is at stake. The meeting is on Monday, 12/18, 6:00 PM at the Armory Park Center.

Note: If you want to read more of Steve’s thoughtful articles, go to this link: The newsletter links are in the upper left corner of the page. You may not agree with all of his positions but you will find them well and logically expressed.

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