A sharply divided city council failed Tuesday night to reach consensus on how it wants to proceed with a new historic preservation ordinance.
As proposed, the ordinance would force about a dozen Newhall property owners to maintain the historic nature of their homes and businesses.
Lengthy public testimony from property owners who wanted to be able to “opt out” of the preservation rules were followed by conflicting opinions from the council dais.
Mayor Marsha McLean said she wanted to see more incentives for property owners. Councilwoman Laurie Ender said she wanted more incentives and an “opt-in” clause, whereby the ordinance would apply only to people who wanted their properties to be deemed historic.
Councilman Bob Kellar also wanted an “opt-in” clause, saying he “wouldn’t ever consider anything else.”
Councilwoman Laurene Weste said she wanted language that would allow a historic building to be moved to another location in the city, such as Heritage Junction Historic Park, if an owner couldn’t keep it where it was.
Councilman Frank Ferry said he wanted a clear definition of what’s “historic,” adding that “if the community values it, they should pay for it.”
Attempting to summarize the council’s wishes, City Manager Ken Pulskamp said it seemed if there were an opt-in clause, “that would solve the problem.”
“Nobody here would opt in,” Ferry retorted, referring to the owners of properties recommended for inclusion.
The council voted 5-0 to continue the public hearing to an uncertain date in the future, effectively putting the process on hold until city staffers can work out the kinks.
In the meantime, a 3-year old moratorium on the demolition of 47 Newhall homes and businesses remains in effect. The new ordinance was to replace the moratorium.
Comments from Michael Guglielmino, whose family owns the building formerly occupied by Newhall Hardware, prompted the council to add an item to its next meeting agenda.
Guglielmino said the moratorium has chilled his ability to sell the building, which has stood empty since the hardware store closed in March2008. He said he is asking “a little over $1 million” for the property, but said the moratorium creates uncertainty about the property’s potential and he would have to lower the price to $400,000 if the moratorium remains in effect.
The council will consider exempting his property from the moratorium when it meets again in September.