Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Bellevue drops historical review law


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Citizens of Bellevue filled City Hall Thursday evening to express strong opposition to an ordinance that would have required design review approval before demolishing any building within the city limits that was built before 1941.

The City Council ultimately shot the ordinance down.

It was finally abandoned entirely after more than a dozen homeowners criticized its language, which would have identified historically significant architectural elements within the city for preservation.

Councilman Shaun Mahoney expressed the unanimous sentiment of the council.

"This is flawed legislation," he said. "Ordinances by the truckload are being passed around Proposition 2 to protect our cities, but is it a bad thing to think about keeping some of the old stuff around?"

John Wilkes, who has owned and operated Branching Out Nursery for 18 years on Main Street, was vehemently opposed to the ordinance.

"Please tell me why you derive a date of 1941," he said. "... This doesn't make any sense. You need to get together what you intend for Main Street before you penalize those in the business district. If you pass this, you will put a burden on them, and they will hate you forever."

Planning and Zoning Administrator Craig Eckles pointed out that historic review plans have been in the works for at least 10 years.

"We had the Bellevue Historical Society before the council in May to identify the historical inventory," he said. "As it is, you can't stop someone from demolishing a building even if it is on the historical register. The 180-day period would allow someone a chance to come in and buy it, or move it somewhere else to preserve it."

Bellevue contractor Janet Barton made phone calls to Bellevue citizens who showed up in force to oppose the P&Z recommendation.

"I think everyone in this room who has an older house has done an amazing job of maintaining and restoring it without any ordinances," she said. "This didn't come from a citizens' group, but from the top down. Please send us a notice if anything of this magnitude comes up again."

Joy Allen expressed support for the idea of preserving Bellevue's history. But there was a catch.

"You have to work with these people who actually have historical homes in order to make it an asset rather than a detriment," she said.

City Attorney Jim Phillips compared the proposed ordinance to similar historical districts in the city of Boise.

"This originally started out looking at the central business core," he said. "The leap to residential properties was made when many of the downtown historical properties were recognized as residential. This doesn't prevent the redevelopment of any properties, even in the commercial core."




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