By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Bowling Green is revisiting history – trying to resurrect efforts to create a Historic Preservation Commission.
Mayor Dick Edwards reintroduced plans for a commission which would “preserve, promote, encourage and support the maintenance, use and reuse of historic buildings in the city.” In other words, it would help property owners who want to preserve historic structures.
The proposal for such a commission was first brought up in 2009, then became part of earnest discussions in 2013. Efforts died in 2015 after some citizens interpreted the city’s preservation efforts as government telling them what to do with their properties.
At that time, Edwards tried to explain that the commission was to help – not give orders.
“It’s not threatening, it’s not dictating to people, it’s not putting the heavy hand of government on neighborhoods,” he said. “It was misconstrued and misinterpreted by some individuals.”
Nevertheless, suspicions about the motivation for the historic preservation commission killed the effort.
But at Tuesday’s city council meeting, the mayor reintroduced the concept.
“There was some misunderstanding about what it is,” Edwards said of the commission. And he would like to try again.
“This is so successful in so many other communities,” he said. More than 70 cities and political bodies in Ohio are working with the state to address historic preservation. Cities like Toledo, Akron and Tiffin are taking advantage of preservation tax credits to rebuild central city business districts and enhance property values in historic neighborhoods, Edwards said.
“I’d like to think that the program can help sustain the life of neighborhoods and make it a more attractive place to live.”
One of the first steps will be to create a five-member historic preservation commission. The group, appointed by the mayor, will include one member from each of the four wards and one from the downtown business district. Edwards said he is looking for recommendations.
The purpose of the commission is to foster civic beauty, stabilize and increase property values, strengthen the local economy, maintain and enhance the distinctive character, safeguard the city’s heritage, and facilitate reinvestment and revitalization through historic preservation.
The commission would have the authority to assist with historic preservation efforts through building inventories, public education, tourism and establishing community partnerships.
The formation of such a commission has been supported by several city planning documents including the housing section and the future land use section of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, and most recently by the Community Action Plan.
Edward’s efforts to resurrect the issue were commended Tuesday evening.
City Council member Daniel Gordon voiced his support to revive the historic preservation effort.
“We were disappointed,” when initial efforts failed, he said of himself and council member John Zanfardino.
Council President Mike Aspacher also offered his backing.
“I would certainly lend my support to that idea,” he said.
Council member Sandy Rowland suggested that City Attorney Mike Marsh and Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter start working on legislation to create the commission.
“The harder issue is establishing districts where it will apply,” Zanfardino said. “Or it will be a commission with no application.”
The mayor said Court Street – the historic area by the Wood County Courthouse – could be an ideal place to start.
“I think we have some opportunities on Court Street,” he said.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting:
- Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter reported that the Community Development Block Grant funding from HUD for the year is $288,575, compared to $256,302 last year.
- Public Works Director Brian Craft announced that Mike Fields, the superintendent at the water treatment plant, recently received the statewide operations meritorious service award.
- Council was informed that a bike safety commission meeting and traffic commission meeting will be held before the next council meeting on Sept. 17, at 6 p.m.
- In response to an inquiry from Gordon, Edwards said the city is still waiting for answers from the Ohio EPA to city council’s questions about the recent spill during construction of the Nexus pipeline. “We have not forgotten that, and we won’t,” Edwards said.