When Blake Aued says, “We don’t really know for sure how widespread support for the historic district is among Buena Vista homeowners,” [City Dope, Mar. 13] he sums up the whole problem with the historic district in one sentence. The original mailing from the Planning Department sent out 224 surveys to owners and residents, but received a response from just 37 households. The results of the survey showed that 17 owners representing 32 properties were opposed, while only 13 owners representing 13 properties were in support of the proposition; however, this lack of response was not seen as a problem. As the debate continued within the community the number of owners opposed to the designation was documented at 31 encompassing over half (53) of the original 100 properties.
Mr. Aued is also correct when he writes that, “the entire process was sort of botched from the beginning.” That the process was flawed is clearly supported by the amount of controversy that has surrounded the issue of historic designation from the beginning. The implication of the initial mailing from the Planning Department is that the residents and owners as a whole would get to decide whether or not they wanted to designate their neighborhood as historic. Alas, this was not to be.
No one defined a neutral third party to determine first: Who could vote? Then: How do we determine how they have voted? Should it be a majority of owners, a majority of neighborhood residents, a majority of owner occupied residents or a majority of ACC residents? This lack of resolution on how to make a decision allowed both proponents and opponents of the plan to lobby commissioners in order to achieve personal goals, which is how we arrived at the plan we are now debating.
I spoke at the Mar. 5 meeting and asked that I and a number of my neighbors be
excluded from the plan, which Commissioner Doug Lowry noted was within the power of the Mayor and Commission to effect. The Mayor and Commission declined to act on this and also declined to wait 40 additional days for further input. Also, the residents of Buena Vista received no notice that the plan had been changed from the original, nor a copy of the revised plan. In my opinion, the plan that Commissioner Kelly Girtz designed was really based on avoiding a lawsuit and little else. The hurried and secretive nature of its creation was simply the most expedient way to attempt putting this issue to rest; it most certainly was not based on what the residents and property owners wanted in their neighborhood.
After having spoken with Commissioner Kathy Hoard by phone about this issue and listening to her statements during the last meeting, I never perceived any hesitation on her behalf that approving the district was the right thing to do, and so I was surprised to see Commissioner Hoard quoted in the Flagpole as saying the she wasn’t comfortable with the original preservation report she had received. If she really feels this way, then why would she be a proponent of this legislation? You cannot possibly produce good legislation without good information.
That said, I would propose that anyone who doesn’t want to be in the historic district should be allowed to opt out. There is no legitimate reason why certain people were given the opportunity to have their property excluded and others were not. Additionally, I would propose that any such district proposal should be voted on by the residents and homeowners. The process we have just been through was not remotely democratic and thus has no legitimacy at all.
As painful as it may be, this entire process needs to be started over. You do not implement legislation by a flawed process and then concede to say that "next time we do this, we will do in a more professional manner." You first must fix the process and then implement the legislation.