Rockland mulls historic preservation law

By Stephen Betts | Sep 06, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts Talbot Avenue is part of a neighborhood already listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rockland — A proposed city law to preserve historic buildings and neighborhoods faces a preliminary vote next week.

The historic preservation ordinance is scheduled for an initial vote at the Wednesday, Sept. 12, meeting of the Rockland City Council. The regular council meeting will be held Wednesday instead of Monday because of the Jewish New Year holiday, Rosh Hashanah.

The law would create a seven-member Historic Preservation Commission nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council. The commission would first develop a manual to guide its work with property owners over proposed alterations, additions or demolition of local landmarks or buildings within a designated historic district.

Those designations can be recommended by various groups or individuals and voted on by the City Council.

The proposed ordinance goes into detail on the criteria for designation and the application process. The complete proposed ordinance will be posted on the city website beginning late Friday afternoon, Sept. 7.

If a property owner of a landmark objects, or if 50 percent or more of the property owners in a proposed historic district object to the designation, the commission will discontinue the designation process.

Once a property or district had been designated as historic, the property owner would be required to apply for a review by the commission whenever the owner wanted to make a major alteration to the exterior. New construction within a historic district and demolition of a landmark or a home within a historic district would also be reviewed by the commission.

Whenever a property owner wanted to demolish a landmark or building within a historic district, there would be a requirement that there be an effort for 180 days to find a buyer who would preserve the structure.

There would be a financial incentive for owners who made approved exterior improvements to historic properties. The assessed valuation of the property -- for municipal property tax purposes -- would not increase for one to five years because of the work, depending on the length of time set by the council in any ordinance.

Property owners could reject recommendations of the commission concerning alterations, but they would have to sign a form acknowledging receipt of the recommendations. Property owners or contractors who performed work without a review by the commission and without signing off on any recommendations would be subject to a $500 fine.

Councilor Adam Ackor, a local contractor, said it would be a real asset for the city to be able to preserve some of its landmarks.

He pointed out that discussions about a historic preservation ordinance began while he was on the Comprehensive Planning Commission before he was elected to the City Council three years ago.

Rockland Historical Society Curator Ann Morris said the organization held a public meeting in May and a group formed to develop a specific ordinance to present to the City Council. The proposal comes from a review of ordinances in Bangor, Lewiston and Castine.

The Rockland proposal is a softer, less restrictive version of the approach of those other communities, Morris said.

"This is thoughtful, appropriate, and exciting," Councilor Amelia Magjik said.

There are currently a few neighborhoods and several buildings in Rockland already on the National Register of Historic Places. The ordinance still would require the City Council to designate those areas as historic for the regulations to apply to those properties and neighborhoods.

The Rockland Residential Historic District is bounded by Union Street on the east, Masonic Street on the south, Broadway on the west, and the northern side of Talbot Avenue to the north.

The Rockland Main Street Historic District includes 27 buildings downtown.

Other properties on the National Register of Historic Places include the Farnsworth House at 23 Elm St.; the Rankin Block; the railroad station; the General Davis Tillson House at 157 Talbot Ave.; the Rockland Breakwater; the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse; the railroad turntable and engine house; the Strand Theatre; and the Timothy Williams House on Old County Road.

If the City Council gives preliminary approval Sept. 12, a formal public hearing and final vote would be held Oct. 10.

Comments (8)
Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 25, 2018 08:11

Hmmm, no response from our City Councilor.  ?????????????

 



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 16, 2018 11:27

Adam,

In my opinion, you should not have been included in this vote because you are a local contractor and could benefit from this greatly.

PLEASE explain the following:

 

“The commission would first develop a manual to guide its work with property owners over proposed alterations, additions or demolition of local landmarks or buildings within a designated historic district

“Once a property or district had been designated as historic, the property owner would be required to apply for a review by the commission whenever the owner wanted to make a major alteration to the exterior. New construction within a historic district and demolition of a landmark or a home within a historic district would also be reviewed by the commission.

Whenever a property owner wanted to demolish a landmark or building within a historic district, there would be a requirement that there be an effort for 180 days to find a buyer who would preserve the structure.

There would be a financial incentive for owners who made approved exterior improvements to historic properties. The assessed valuation of the property -- for municipal property tax purposes -- would not increase for one to five years because of the work, depending on the length of time set by the council in any ordinance.

Property owners could reject recommendations of the commission concerning alterations, but they would have to sign a form acknowledging receipt of the recommendations. Property owners or contractors who performed work without a review by the commission and without signing off on any recommendations would be subject to a $500 fine.

Councilor Adam Ackor, a local contractor, said it would be a real asset for the city to be able to preserve some of its landmarks.

 



Posted by: Adam S Ackor | Sep 08, 2018 19:56

Points well taken Steve.  I do believe that the complete ordinance as it is now written, envisions a more cooperative and non-punitive approach to preservation.  Any action taken by the city council is worth debate, and I encourage all who have an interest to come to the council meetings and voice your concerns...or please email, call..even write any of us as well and I will certainly do my best to respond.  Preserving landmarks within the boundaries of our city is something that we can do as a community to ensure that generations to come are able to appreciate where we have been and how our city has evolved over the past two centuries.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Sep 08, 2018 08:49

Adam

I know that Historic preservation is dear to both of our hearts.  I even cringed a little when the City's public works ripped apart an historic bridge over the Quarry on Limerock.  I did however get a different read from the above article.  You commented a homeowner could "alter their house in any way".  I read:  "the owner would be REQUIRED to apply for a review by the commission whenever the owner wished to make a major alteration to the exterior" .  Somehow this sounds different to me.  Now you have a group of people deciding what is a "major alteration".  So in effect Valerie is correct, you would have a committee telling you what you can and can not do with "your property".  Now as many people may know, both you and I own homes that could be considered "of historical significance ".  I heard you were sponsoring this proposal, so before you act please think more about the possible consequences before you invite the elephant into the room.



Posted by: Adam S Ackor | Sep 07, 2018 12:50

I'd just like to make it abundantly clear to all concerned, that the proposed historic preservation ordinance does not prevent anyone from selling their property, painting their house, or altering their house in any way.  The purpose of this ordinance is to recognize properties, structures, and districts for their historic value to our city.  Properties listed in the ordinance are already recognized as historically significant by the national historic register.  This ordinance envisions a future which would include a historic preservation commission..whose charge would include the possibility of offering some sort of tax incentive to owners of listed properties.  The goal is to start off small, in the hope that a preservation commission will provide information, incentives and ultimately protection for some of this city's notable, historic places.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Sep 07, 2018 08:52

Valerie

I'm right there with ya.  This council seems to have plenty of time to save the whales and very little interest in saving taxpayer dollars.  Let's keep our eye on the ball.  Don't be sticking the city's nose into telling us what we can and can't do with our properties.  Let's focus on the money folks.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 07, 2018 06:56

Who is going to pay for the upkeep of the “historic” buildings?   I do not agree that a government should be able to tell you what you can do to or with your house.  After all, it isn’t the the historic  preservation committee who is paying the property taxes and utility bills on the house.   No one should be able to tell you that you can’t sell your house.  If this goes forward, it will have devasting conquences for Rockland.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Sep 06, 2018 11:49

I'd be more concerned with starting to preserve the earth from all this pollution and waste we the people are creating. Mother Nature isn't going to spare anything because some hand picked people think it should happen. Sixty years ago I was afraid to get near the edge of the quarry at the dump as it was so deep. Now look at it. I fear for young people as the future doesn't seem to be very promising unless some real changes are made.



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