P&Z recommends change in historic district rules

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Cape Girardeau City Council should amend city law to make it easier to set up local historic districts, the planning and zoning commission recommended Wednesday night.

The planning board's unanimous recommendation -- which included lowering the percentage of property owners needed to petition for a district -- follows that of the city's historic preservation commission, which took a similar stand in September. About 20 residents attended the meeting in support of the recommendation.

The board followed the advice of Old Town Cape, a downtown redevelopment organization, in recommending that districts be created with approval of 51 percent of property owners in an affected area.

The current threshold -- 75 percent -- makes it nearly impossible to secure enough support from property owners to establish local historic districts, said Tim Arbeiter, executive director of Old Town Cape.

A number of commercial and residential areas could qualify for historic district status, he said. They include areas along downtown's Main Street, the Good Hope neighborhood adjoining the downtown and the downtown Broadway area.

Design rules would protect property values in older neighborhoods and likely increase them, Arbeiter said.

Unlike buildings that are placed on the National Register, local districts don't involve state or federal tax credits.

Districts provide controls over what types of exterior renovations can be made. But preservation commission chairman Dave Rutherford said the rules won't force property owners to make improvements.

"No one is going to force them to spend money," he said.

The commission also:

* Recommended a special-use permit for a proposed neighborhood pub and grill at 833 N. Spanish St.

* Recommended a special-use permit for a 150-foot-tall, flagpole-styled cellular telephone tower at 1157 S. West End Blvd.

* Recommended approval of record plats for WestTown Center, Lexington Place Fifth Subdivision and Saint Francis Health and Wellness Center medical offices.

* Recommended revisions to a city ordinance to ensure developers install sidewalks as part of commercial and residential projects.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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