Just when you think society in general is starting to “get it” on the numerous benefits of placemaking, a couple of state legislators propose bills that could potentially wipe out one of the best tools for successful placemaking in Michigan – historic preservation. Under consideration right now in Michigan are bills in the House and Senate that would essentially gut historic preservation efforts in our state by the process of a 1,000 paper cuts.
These short-sighted bills (HB 5232 and SB 720 of 2016) would require re-approval of historic districts every ten years by a super-majority (67%) and place a developer on each local review committee. Funny, I thought once something was deemed historic, it was always historic. If so, why repeatedly vote on it’s status? Historic status is (and always should be) based on facts, not votes.
Such requirements would leave historic districts constantly grasping for votes like incumbent politicians, allow for the potential of de-designation of historic districts, and leave those who have or may be interested in historic properties wondering if they would be just wasting their time and/or throwing their money away by investing in historic districts. In addition, such legislation will surely lead inconsistent historic district standards across the state.
Given that the private sector routinely asks for more consistency and/or uniformity in regulations, these bills only serve to create more disfunction and disarray. Furthermore, being out-of-step with federal historic preservation standards does no one any good, especially the historic properties themselves and their owners.
Considering the girth of data showing the monumental economic benefits of historic preservation, it is hard to believe that such poor legislation could be thought up, let alone see the light of day. Just consider the economic boost gained from:
- Restoration and rehabilitation of historic structures;
- Tourist dollars spent visiting these historic places and nearby merchants;
- The spin-off investments in surrounding/nearby properties and neighborhoods; and
- The new local and state tax revenues generated.
If there ever were examples of bad legislation designed to backtrack progress in community investment and re-investment, HB 5232 and SB 720 are them. If you live, work, own property, or travel in Michigan, please consider contacting members of the House and Senate, in particular the sponsors of this mess, and express your opposition to HB 5232 and SB 720 of 2016. Please consider contacting the Governor’s office as well.