Michigan Historic Districts imperiled

MAP logoTwo bills currently being considered by the Michigan legislature would drastically change how communities establish and maintain historic districts.

The Michigan Association of Planning has taken a strong position opposing these changes. The association said:Historic Preservation is the foundation of many community's economic revitalization efforts, and is one of the most important tools to protect our history and culture, create a sense of place, and is relevant to community development efforts for both small towns and big cities.  From Grand Rapids to Ann Arbor, Detroit to Traverse City, Monroe to Marquette planners have long recognized the value of protecting historic buildings, downtowns, and neighborhoods. The association’s position is supported by its official, board-approved land use policy.The association continued:These bills will effectively eliminate historic districts in the State of Michigan. The way in which the current bills are written would:

  • Empower large landowners to determine the fate of a neighborhood at the expense of all other property owners;
  • Disempower neighborhoods from self-determination as a majority vote of electors in the local unit would be required for designation;
  • Politicize the appeal process from a non-partisan state board of experts to local elected officials;
  • Establish ambiguous standards that may deviate from the Secretary of Interior Standards for historic resources; and
  • Require that all (current and future) historic districts would be dissolved 10 years after the bill is enacted, unless a popular vote at the election immediately preceding the district's dissolution is approved as a renewal.

montagno-web “Historic preservation has been one of the most successful strategies to protect urban neighborhoods and provide economic anchors in older cities and towns,” said Carlisle/Wortman Associate Paul Montagno, a past president of MAP who now serves on its board of directors. “Downtown development authorities, historic district commissions and leaders in existing historic districts who value historic designation should contact their representatives in Lansing about these bills.”