Skip to comments.Old Or Not, It's Mine - telling government to back off their property rights
Posted on 06/20/2005 4:35:10 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
TAMPA - On a south Tampa street where Christmas block parties are a tradition, residents are arguing about whether their property should be earmarked a historic district by the city. A few miles away, several cigar factory owners have united to protest the city's attempt to designate their buildings local landmarks.
At city hall, historic preservation staff members say maintaining the character and fabric of Tampa is an important endeavor. They also tout economic benefits for owners of historic buildings, including tax breaks and increased property values.
So why are some residents on Harbor View Avenue and some cigar factory owners from West Tampa to Palmetto Beach so vehemently opposed to the historic designation that they have written to the mayor and city council members, collected signatures on a letter voicing their opposition and hired an attorney to fight city hall?
``Bottom line, we don't want the intrusiveness of a government entity saying what we can do with our property,'' said Ronald Dickman, who has owned a home on Harbor View since 1973. ``We don't want the yoke around our neck. We just want the freedom to be able to enjoy our property rights.''
Proposed changes to historic buildings need approval from the Architectural Review Commission, a volunteer board charged with ensuring development and alterations to buildings in historic districts match neighborhood characteristics. The Barrio Latino Commission has a similar role in Ybor City.
The city of Tampa has five historic districts: Ybor City, Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights, Hyde Park and North Franklin Street.
Sometimes, people voluntarily ask for historic designation. Other times, city staff members identify areas worthy of consideration.
They look for whether the property has a distinctive character, architectural value and cultural significance to the city.
Properties given the historical designation are protected, meaning they can't be demolished or altered beyond recognition. The community has some input in drawing up design guidelines for the area. Sometimes, more expensive material is required for renovations.
``It represents the pride and symbol of a community at a particular period of time,'' said Del Acosta, historic preservation manager of the architectural review for historic preservation. ``There is a demand for these structures. These historic buildings were built with a high degree of craftsmanship and materials.''
The city and Hillsborough County exempt property taxes on improvements to historic structures. The federal government also offers income tax credits.
A University of Florida and Rutgers University study compared the increase in assessed property values in historic districts with neighboring nonhistoric ones.
The study found, for example, that the assessed property value of homes in the Hyde Park Historic District rose nearly 75 percent between 1992 and 2001. The value of homes on Davis Islands, which is not a historic district, rose about 60 percent.
Harbor View Residents Divided
The city is considering designating the Harbor View blocks between Bayshore Boulevard and MacDill Avenue a historic district.
More than a year ago, a few residents, including Leigh Wilson, a historic preservation architect, asked the city to designate their houses historic, said Dennis Fernandez, acting manager of the Historic Preservation Department. The city then decided to consider designating the entire stretch a historic district.
The street has craftsman- style homes and bungalows that date from 1912 through the 1930s.
Wilson doesn't want the multifamily development trend creeping into Palma Ceia to spill over into her area of south Tampa.
``There are a lot of character-defining features of these houses, and once they're lost, they're hard to regain,'' said Wilson, who serves on the Barrio Latino Commission. ``Developers in the neighborhood see the value of the land, not the house.''
Hillsborough County Commissioner Kathy Castor, who has lived in a 1917 bungalow on Harbor View since 1994, supports the move toward historic preservation.
``There are so many tear- down projects and replacements of older structures with homes that don't have character, that are boxes,'' she said.
People such as Dickman don't see it that way. He and some of his neighbors, including James Crosby and Beth Sigety, said they see the historic district designation as government intrusion.
Christmas and Halloween parties, and the friendliness among her neighbors are among the reasons Sigety chose a home on Harbor View.
``It's much more important to me, the person in the house than the house,'' she said.
Now, she and some of her neighbors worry that the divisiveness will shatter the neighborhood spirit. Some also worry about the Architectural Review Commission dictating what they can and cannot do to their homes.
They said the potential property value increase isn't worth the hassle of complying with the commission. They also said people looking to buy a home in the neighborhood might choose to move one block north or south - where the houses resemble those on Harbor View but wouldn't be in a historic district - so they have more liberty in altering their homes. Many signed a letter protesting the designation.
The commission reviews about 600 projects a year and ultimately approves most of them. It does not regulate property interiors, landscaping, art in the yard or holiday decorations. It does have guidelines regarding walls, roofs, architectural details, doors, porches and chimneys.
Mayor Pam Iorio recognizes the concerns of those who oppose historic district designation. She is particularly bothered that a proposal to build a Starbucks in Seminole Heights still is winding its way through the review process.
``For goodness' sakes, it's a Starbucks that wants to open in an area that doesn't see a lot of development,'' Iorio said. ``If you nitpick to death, you lose the investors' spirit.''
Iorio said she hears complaints that the commission often arbitrarily decides what is acceptable. She also hears complaints that city staff members say one thing while the commission says another.
``I have found that people who buy historic buildings are sensitive'' to the property, Iorio said. ``By the time they're done with the [commission] process, they're so agitated, and that's not right. If it was something I could quickly fix, I would.''
Acosta defended the board.
``When you have nine people, all volunteers, trying to come together and make a decision, is it nitpicking or is it discussion?'' Acosta said.
Landmark Cigar Factories
The city is trying to designate 15 former cigar factories - mostly in West Tampa - local landmarks, in part because the cigar industry had a significant impact on Tampa history.
Five of the factory owners hired lawyer John Grandoff to represent them before the city council.
``The city wants historic preservation, but through my clients' wallet,'' Grandoff said. ``If the city wanted to restore and pay for it, who wouldn't say yes to that? The city is doing historic preservation on the cheap.''
Kent Larson bought La Corina Cigar Factory 23 years ago. He said that if his 108-year-old windows needed to be replaced after a hurricane, he probably would have to pay about $2,000 per window to adhere to historic standards. He estimates paying $200 each if he could buy any window.
He's on target. Gorrie Elementary, in the Hyde Park Historic District, saw the cost of a renovation and expansion project skyrocket several years ago because the Architectural Review Commission required the use of expensive materials.
``When they give us all these regulations on it, I don't know how I can be economically viable,'' Larson said. ``We feel our property rights are being taken away from us without compensation.''
The Harbor View and cigar factory issues are far from over. An information session for Harbor View residents is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Jan Platt Library, 3910 S. Manhattan Ave.
The cigar factory proposal is scheduled for city council consideration in October.
Reporter Ellen Gedalius can be reached at (813) 259-7679.
I've always disagreed with this Historic Preservation Policy. It changes the entire concept of "clear title" and "health, safety and welfare" issues associated with Town Planning and Zoning.
It isnt' right to come in after the fact and tell people how to use their propety.
If they buy into it, they know the deal.
Historic districts need one primary feature -
Residents maintain veto power over all decisions made by the historic commission and that veto power may be exercised at monthly meetings.
I live in Oak Ridge, Tennessee - a historic city, as it was built only to build the atomic bomb in World War II. There are a lot of homes here that were built during the Manhattan Project - I own one of them. The city recognizes the historic significance of these homes, but also recognizes the owner's right to do what they want with their homes. They have a program to make it easier to restore the home to it's World War II appearance - you can obtain home plans, design forms and the like, and licensing to do the work is made fairly easily. However, if you want to modernize the home (for example, I'm considering adding a peaked roof on my currently flat-roofed home), you can do that as well.
So yes, they recognize the historic value of the homes, but they also recognize my rights as a property owner.
That sounds sane.
But what of them coming into a neighborhood and voting it historic?
And then as your 'new' historical landmark is sucking you dry, try to sell it. You can fugetaboutit. Suicide is the only viable option (ok I'm kidding there, but not much)
I couldn't tolerate or afford it.
One thing that annoys me is this fascination with the past. That somehow because something is old it is better, and also the way things always should be. It seems very old world thinking.
I can honestly see many of these people banning computers and home appliances because they threaten the old culture.
I advise all my clients not to have a house designated as "historic". I have been thanked many times. What I do ask them to consider is to have a sign designating the site's history. It's a minor process. My cars screeches to a halt when I see one of these signs. I photograph them, get a GPS shot, and log them.
I enjoy history and see things from the past.
I'm glad some people are willing to restore and conserve historic places. I'm even glad to help with tax dollars.
I don't think it's right to swoop in and vote someone's property "historic."
Most people at some base level realize that the Present sucks (I blame the liberals) and want to go back to some more-peaceful time. I grew up in Palm Springs, CA. it had a lot of character as a small desert town, where the movie stars would come to play. In the 80s, the town went through a major renovation. They tried to make it look like a sleep desert town and it lost that 'real' character it already had.
It looked more like a street from Disneyland.
It's along the same lines as home-decor. You can't have a home that is functional and comforatble to live in. You have to spend $$$ at Home Depot and Pier One imports to design the character of your home. You make your home what you want everyone to think you are.
When you're bored with that, you sell everything at a yard-sale and have a do-over.
We have quite a few in the old residential section of Kalispell. You could spend the day walking around taking photos. As a plus, the Conrad Mansion is in the area.
*NOTE - I'm not a tourist agent, nor do I play one on TV.
That's right and ... when they move in and make it HISTORIC District...the prices go up and only those with money can live there so that means you who have lived there all your life, raised a family, made improvements, watched the trees grow, etc..get tossed out on your ear.
If you buy property it is YOURS. This business is getting out of hand and is happening more and more now when it used to be just a rare thing. If they begin taking our properties we're on our way down the drain.
I dont' blame these people for banding together to stand and fight for waht is rightfully theirs. God bless them and wish them luck.
I too am glad (proud) to see people saying, "I'm not going to take it lying down," and standing up for their rights.
So your clients like the idea of a bunch of busybody architecture geeks (a panel or commission) having final say so over what color they can paint their house and which type of hand made custom trim can be applied to their new 'historic house'? And which type of 'original' and historically correct plumbing fixtures can be installed? And where to find replacement historically correct roof shingles and then someone qualified to install them in the original manner?
In Chicago there's a group of said busybodies who go around the neighborhoods trying to have buildings and houses declared 'historic'. The owners now are fighting like heck to squash their attempts because of the costs involved. And these people are busybodies as when these things are reported its always the case that none of them even LIVE in Chicago let alone the neighborhood where said building is.
So no offense but I don't think you are aware of the costs involved in having a 'historic' building. Both in money and time. When something breaks you just can't run down to the Home Depot and then install a new faucet because first it has to be approved by the architecture Nazi's who now in fact have control of your building.
An ARC is nothing other than another name for the Homeowners' Association beast of burdens.
I have to chuckle every time I go there. The brass sign looks so real. This is my kind of humor. I guess the apple really doesn't fall too far from the tree--LOL!
Yes, the dreaded architectual review commission.
"Accidental" fire. Collect the insurance. Move to another area without a "historical district". (Satire!!!)
It appears Sacajaweau wasn't advocating the declaration of historic designation upon an owner's property - but just the opposite.
Need to work on that reading comprehension there, Condor.
I've been in construction for over 50 years, what the hell is a craftsman home?
As far as this article, so called historical buildings shouldn't exist as far as i'm concerned, the design and looks are horible, and I wish all the people that migrated to So. Cal. from the east would have left their crappy design ideas back there.
It's a good thing my father sold my grandparents place in Del Mar when my grandmother died in the 50s and it went to the dump or the do gooders of today would claim the crappy old joint historical since it was the Del Mar stage stop that my grandfather ran until the railroad was built.
I think you misread my statement. I advise them NOT to have it as a designated Historic Building.
Long live Alberta.
As a building designer, I've had to contend with a few of those "review boards". Most are the epitome of a little too much "power" gone to the wrong heads, er hands.
I've real a problem when a "review committee" can overstep a nationally accredited, state licensed design professional because the "incorrect shade of rose" was employed.
I too enjoy reading about the past, and even roleplaying from the past. But there is reasons why we went to modern things that these people don't factor in.
Like longer lasting roof materials. Bigger windows as the price of them came down.. and thus different architecture. Infact in the 1800's many homes had virtually no windows so as to keep heat in. More bathrooms as people got wealthier, and bigger homes in general.
Three car garages replacing the single mini garage as we got cars. More electrical outlets as the power demand grew with more electrical devices. etc..
My ancestors four hundred years ago in Scotland lived in mud and stone huts.. I wouldn't mind a museum to see it, but I wouldn't want to live in one Lol!
Let me guess.... one sold by Sears?
In Oceanside,the city has decided to permit a luxury hotel near the pier. This is part of a redeveoplment of the downtown. There's an old house, about 75 years old, on one of the lots. Tom Cruise shot a few scenes for Top Gun there. Of course some call it the Top Gun house. Can't move it or tear it down, donchano!
I am an ardent defender of private property rights, especially against government intrusion, but I can't muster a whole heck of a lot of sympathy here. Many of these same people are among those that voted to allow government intrusion in private property decisions by voting in favor of a smoking ban for private businesses.
It's amazing how some people only see the government intrusion when it is their ox being gored.
It must be some eastern term, what that picture is of looks like old junk that belongs in a landfill.
I totally understand where they are coming from, I really do and would probably fight along side them against this as I know exactly how these Historic Commissions (or whatever they are called) operate.
The battles in downtown Dover, DE have given me all I need to know. It's one thing to move INTO the historic district, quite another to have one dumped upon you after the fact.
When I was still on Cape Cod, I had many opportunities to deal with HD (Old Kings Highway HD runs the length of the Cape north of RT. 6) and Nantucket HD (The entire island is designated historic).
While the folks on Cape were for the most part helpful, the Nantucket board, non of whom were from Nantucket or New England, were purely obstructionist.
I went so far as to drive a board member around and show her several "historic" homes that had the exact feature the homeowners wanted to include. But the board was adamant and her reply was, "We don't care."
I live in Oceanside and that house is a total POS and should have gone to the landfill years ago. Of course the city council is the a bunch of nuts to start with and just got worse with the election of that eco nut broad last week.
I'm new in town and to local politics. Those nuts are everywhere and up and down the coast, more so.
"As a building designer, I've had to contend with a few of those "review boards". Most are the epitome of a little too much "power" gone to the wrong heads, er hands."
About 30 years ago I built a factory in Buena Park and it had an exterior circular wall around the 2 story entry area and the owners wanted to face it with Palos Verdes stone but the architectural review board wouldn't allow it and it had to be done with their designated color of combed plaster.
These freaks have been out of control for a long time.
This is an issue where I have quite a bit of experience and honestly I think you are getting a little carried away with your rhetoric.
I have worked on or in dozens (if not more than 100) historic districts in several states and of those maybe 1 or 2 had restrictions on property owners. The vast, vast majority of historic districts encourage preservation and proper restoration but DO NOT REQUIRE IT. If you own a National or State Historical Register property in almost any state, you as a private property owner can legally bulldoze it if you want to. You can paint it any color, you can vinyl side it if you want to, the worst that the Register can do to you is remove your property from the register, they cannot fine you or punish you in any other way. I defy anyone to provide me a single instance of when a private property owner was fined or legally prevented from demolishing or altering a National or State Registered building in any state by virtue of any State or National Register law. You can't do it because it never has happened.
Local historic designations actually have much more power than Federal or State designations. Local boards rarely (but sometimes) do require certain conditions to be met for building "interiors/exteriors" for a single site designation or "exteriors only" for a district designation. While I do not always agree with these restrictions, most of them have been found to be legal (as part of local zoning and property maintainence codes).
Historic district designations are generally the weakest but most common designation used in this process. As I said earlier, I have worked closely with private property owners in far more of these districts than most people visit in a lifetime and I can only recall hearing a private property owner complain about it maybe two times in all my years of experience and that usually was someone who bought into a historic district, wanted to knock down the historic building and then wondered why the municipality and their neighbors weren't all gung ho for their "conceptual plan".
Properly and thoughtfully created Historic site or district designations are almost always a boon to the communities where they are implemented. That is one reason that the Federal Government has made National Register nomination so very difficult. So many people were asking for it, that the Feds raised the bar dramatically in the nomination process. It is very hard to get a nomination approved now unless the paperwork is incredibly detailed and sourced to the max.
One other benefit to private property owners who have a Historic designation on their property is that such a designation PREVENTS, Federal or State governments from siezing or altering those designated properties without full compliance with Section 106 requirements. Also local governments who use State or Federal funds for a specific project may not seize or alter Historic designated properties without full section 106 compliance.
In other words, 2 houses are next to each other. One is a National Register site, the other is not. A local government wants the property that those houses sit on for some project in which they are using State or Federal funding. The local government can begin eminent domain seizure against the unregistered property immediately but thay cannot do the same for the Registered property. The historical designation protects the other property at least partially form eminent domain seizures of this type. The local government must go through a complete Section 106 process before they can take the Registered property. this process can take months or on rare occassions, even years. Local governments know this and usually try not to screw around with National or State Historic Registered properties. It sometimes is an excellent tool for property owners to protect their private property.
Historic designations are a complicated issue with benefits and drawbacks. Blanket advice like "always do it" or "never do it" is shortsighted and unprofessional.
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