The City is proposing to add a “pause” button to its demolition review procedures. The change was prompted by the demolition of 184 West Utica earlier this year by Sinatra & Company Real Estate. Today, when a demolition permit is applied for, the City has 30 days to act or the permit is automatically granted. That timeline was set by an administrative rule by Richard Tobe in 2008.
The 30 day window is not enough time to ensure potentially significant buildings and structures are not demolished without notice to the community and review by the Preservation Board. After preservationists quickly prepared a landmark application, and the Board recommended approval, the house at 184 West Utica had been demolished before the Common Council could weigh in on the landmarking.
Councilmembers Rivera and Nowakowski are proposing changes to the City’s Preservation Standards Article III- Designation of Landmarks and Districts. It will give the Preservation Board 45 days to process a landmark application for an historic property subject to demolition. It will also prevent a demolition permit to be issued as long as the designation is under active consideration by the Committee on Legislation and/or the Common Council.
New language proposed to be added to Chapter 337:
§ 337-6. A. Moratorium on city permit pending landmark and historic districts recommendation.
1. The Preservation Board shall have no more than 45 days to process a landmark application for a property subject to demolition. Once the Preservation Board has reviewed and filed a landmark or historic district application with the Committee on Legislation, there shall be no issuance of building permits or demolition permits, relating to said property or district, as long as, the proposed designation is under active consideration by the Committee on Legislation and or the Common Council.
2. A property owner affected by this halt on permit applications, may send a letter to the Committee on Legislation to allow work, not involving demolition of any kind, to proceed pending final determination by the Common Council, so long as, such work does not affect the historic or architectural value of the property or neighborhood under consideration.
3. Whenever landmark proposal for a building pending a demolition permit is received by the Board, prior to issuance of said permit, the statutory thirty (30) days for approval by the Commissioner of Permits and Inspection shall immediately cease unless and until other directions are received from the Board or the Common Council regarding the landmark application.
a. The Board, upon receipt of a landmark application pursuant to paragraph iii above, shall review application for completeness, and must provide the Council with documented findings in their recommendation. The Board shall consider among other things, the following, before making a recommendation to the Council:
i. The ability to stabilize the property at a reasonable cost to the owner/developer;
ii. The ability to adaptively reuse the property; and
iii. The impact of the landmark designation on the larger project or neighborhood, if applicable.
4. At no time shall a property be demolished pending landmark determination by the Common Council.
Changes are also proposed for landmark determinations. The full Common Council will have more say in landmarking and how such designations will be considered:
The demolition delay ordinance change will not prevent demolitions indefinitely, ensure that demolition will be avoided, or prevent demolition of any and all “old” buildings or structures. Rather, the process allows for a more thorough review of proposed demolitions to assess a building’s historical significance. The delay period also allows preservation advocates to mount an intervention by negotiating with the owner and other parties so that the property may be preserved.
The Common Council will have its first look at the Ordinance changes at its meeting tomorrow.