Urbana backs historic district

By Pamela Nisivaco

Urbana residents flooded Monday night’s City Council meeting in an attempt to influence the Council’s decisions on three ordinances regarding historic preservation. Tensions were high as the majority of residents expressed their support to the ordinances through public comments for nearly an hour.

Though it ultimately passed, the most debated ordinance at Monday’s meeting was the designation of the historic district. The item was deferred from the Council’s Oct. 15 meeting when Heather Stevenson, Ward 6, and Robert Lewis, Ward 3, voted against the ordinance. However, after a short recess, Lewis rescinded his vote and the item was moved to Monday’s agenda.

“I can’t support an ordinance for a district when you have lots of different property owners and one person who wants to make the street a historic district based on their feeling,” said Stevenson at the Oct. 15 meeting.

The new ordinance will not include noncontributing properties – those properties whose owners are opposed to becoming part of a district because they do not view their land or buildings as “historic.”

Carl Long, the owner of a duplex on the block, said at the Oct. 15 meeting he wanted to put his unique design in Urbana and build according to future designs.

“I don’t want to be forced to build to somebody else’s standards,” he said.

At Monday’s meeting, Long said he thinks there are some amazing properties on the block, but he does not see the history of his duplex anymore.

“I’m just worried that we’re pigeon holing and we’re thinking ahead of ourselves what is historic and what is not,” Long said.

Another ordinance approved at the meeting in a six to one vote by the Council will add specific details to the city zoning ordinance about the requirements to become a neighborhood conservation district.

Stevenson voiced the lone vote against the ordinance.

“I still believe NCD inhibits creativity,” she said.

The last ordinance that also passed will establish a delay period for issuance of demolition permits to owners of properties classified for historic preservation.

Chris Berti, an Urbana resident, spoke in support of the delay period.

He said demolition delay would allow time for research regarding the historic value of the building proposed to be demolished.