Contact Councilman Dai Thao & Mayor Carter

Monday, May 21, 2018 8:42 AM | Aaron Gjerde

Please send your thoughts regarding the HPC proposed changes to:

Councilman Dai Thao

Mayor Carter 

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We oppose the proposed changes to Chapter 73 that established the Heritage Preservation Commission.  We believe these changes will damage the delicate renaissance our historic neighborhood and St. Paul are experiencing and will threaten Mayor Carter's economic development vision of "assets, assets, everywhere."

How?  By massively increasing fees and penalizing appeals.  By massively increasing the cost of historic preservation with overly detailed and prescriptive National Standards, rather than the intentionally more general local "guidelines" that were adapted from the national guidelines.  The intention was not to create a museum, like the James J. Hill House or Alexander Ramsey House, which the National Standard is well suited for, but to prevent tear downs and to provide reasonable guidelines that encourage people to rehabilitate their houses and develop businesses.  We are seeing some success from this general guideline as a piece in an overall community and economic development strategy - to undo this accomplishment now, when our work is not done, threatens to disrupt progress and put the Historic Hill District back on a path to abandoned buildings and blight all over again.

The HPC may argue that the only people impacted by the increased preservation costs and fees can afford it anyway.  Well, that's plain old false and ignores the economic reality that Historic Preservation in St Paul is one of our assets.  Right now, preservation can help a blighted neighborhood find root in its traditions where neighbors find each other, help each other, and work to improve the living conditions and housing all around them.  We saw it on Ramsey Hill, in Irvine Park, and we're seeing it on Dayton's Bluff, Como, Hamline Midway, and other areas in St Paul.  What you see across these areas is a wonderful mix of economic diversity.  Ramsey Hill today represents perhaps the highest concentration of the wealthiest and the highest concentration of the poorest in St Paul.  Living together in harmony - friends and neighbors.  That must be a valuable asset.  That must be what Mayor Carter wants to create as a vision.

That cannot happen when fees are so high and preservation costs driven by excessively prescriptive standards are so high and timelines so extended and criminal fines can be levied by the HPC.  

What we do need is increased efficiency processing permit applications by the HPC.  What we do need is better accessibility of the HPC to consult with neighbors and developers before applications are submitted.  We need to remember that Historic Preservation is a tool that enhances an overall Community Development and Economic Development Strategy, OR if used inappropriately, will crush a delicate renaissance.

Remember the Back to the City Conference?  We see the results all around us.  Oppose the changes that increase bureaucracy and the cost of government and instead, let's help accelerate our momentum to further develop the "assets" our Mayor sees.  

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