PROPERTY RIGHTS; Fixing a Hole

Article excerpt

No one should be unaware that the city has labeled their home or building a potential historic landmark -- especially when the tag affects the ability to demolish all or part of the structure.

But the City Council in 2002 created an eligibility list of about 230 properties for landmark status without alerting their owners.

What a wide wrong turn, even if unintended.

Placing restrictions on someone's private property without notice or a chance to object is unfair and heavy-handed.

It breeds mistrust of government and also fosters bad public relations for historic preservation, which should play a welcomed role in defining the city's character and enhancing quality of life.

Council member Art Shad, who joined the council after the legislation passed, is proposing some important rule changes to correct the problem. They should benefit property owners and historic preservation in the city.

Shad said he became aware of the issue after a woman in his San Marco district learned she was on the list the hard way.

The woman had spent thousands of dollars on plans to demolish her home and to rebuild. But, much to her surprise, Shad said, city building officials said a demolition permit could not be issued because of the property was on a list of eligible landmarks.

Weeks of delays and controversy followed. An historic planner with the city Planning Department determined the home did not meet the criteria for landmark status. However, the city Historic Preservation Commission decided otherwise, saying the issue warranted more study. …