Although not an agenda item the nettlesome Historic Preservation Ordinance dominated discussion at Tuesday night’s city council meeting when Council Member Laurene Weste brought the topic up during the Committee Reports/Council Member Comments portion of the executive meeting.
“I would ask the city council to spend some more time and research and really do on this topic a study across the nation of what other communities have done in order to craft an ordinance to balance the rights of property owners and a community’s desire to keep its heritage and historic, unique character,” said Weste.
She said it was imperative since the city had already spent a great deal of time and money restoring Old Town Newhall and making it a destination location.
Council Member Bob Kellar upon learning that the city staff and the city council has spent 5 years already working on an ordinance said, “At some time we have to say we’ve done our homework.”
Weste said she didn’t disagree that the city has spent a lot of time on the issue but explained there was no magic number of days or meetings.
“Sometimes it’s common sense,” said Weste.
Kellar insisted the council has heard loud and clear on the issue from the public.
“At some juncture we need to say enough. We can study this thing, we can go national, I guess after that we can go international,” said Kellar.
Kellar said he was not in support of dragging it on any longer.
Council Member Frank Ferry said his position hadn’t changed. He wanted a definition of what is historical. He also said he wasn’t comfortable voting for more study without knowing the Planning Commission’s decision.
Mayor Marsha McLean described it for him:
“What they did was completely dismantle the current historic preservation, it’s gone. And they voted to have an opt-in where the property owner opts in. There is no other, nothing else on the table. It’s just property owner has the right, no one else has the right to say whether their property is historic or not. And they have the right to opt in,” said McLean.
Weste emphasized the danger of not having a preservation ordinance while spending money revitalizing Old Town Newhall.
“Right now, you’re building an Old Town that you have no hope of having anything even close to something old in it,” said Weste.
Council Member Laurie Ender expressed concern that further study would leave 49 property owners in limbo.
Kellar, a Realtor, stated that this would be a disclosure item if the owner decided to sell their property and therefore a hardship.
City Attorney Joe Montes informed the city council that giving direction to city staff in the form of a motion was allowed under the Brown Act, but debate should be saved for the next public hearing on the item.
Having been refocused, the City Council voted 4-1 to direct staff to conduct further study. Kellar voted against.