MOUNT VERNON — Should the downtown business district be officially designated as a historic district and should provisions be added to the planning and zoning code to enhance historic preservation and give the city some leverage to prevent demolitions in historic districts?
Mount Vernon’s Historic Review Commission, which consists of the Municipal Planning Commission plus two members who reside in historic districts (Gail Labenne and Corby Wise), discussed the topics for an hour Thursday and reached no conclusions.
On the issue of limiting demolition and/or encouraging preservation, the members have relevant codes from Ashland, Newark and Wooster to study.
Mount Vernon City Law Director Rob Broeren also distributed a paper outlining how some restrictions on demolition and criteria for reviewing demolition permits could be implemented. Wise also distributed a copy of the Secretary of the Interior’s “Standards for Rehabilitation” that are used for evaluating applications for historic preservation grants.
Broeren said the standards for reviewing a demolition request would also require more documents and information from the owner and the local historical society might be asked for evidence of historical significance for the property.
Member Jeff Ulrey said he thought one problem in increasing historic preservation standards might be the possible cost to homeowners who might not be able to afford the expense of historic materials for rehabilitation efforts.
However, he, Wise and Mount Vernon Safety Service Director Joel Daniels, who all live in historic districts, recognize that as a factor but they think their neighbors would generally “buy in” to establishing those standards.
As for whether the city should designate a downtown historic district Broeren and Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis noted that some years ago a downtown historic district was drawn and is recognized by the federal government for grant application and tax purposes. However, Mount Vernon City Council never actually voted to create the district.
The commission agreed that one thing they have to decide is what benefits the city would gain by officially designating a downtown district and whether it would be the same as the one drawn previously.
The next meeting of the Planning Commission/Historic Review Commission will be at 4 p.m. June 13.