Some homeowners still unhappy over proposed historic district guidelines

Thursday, January 22, 2009
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com
The old Julius Vasterling building on Broadway in Cape Girardeau was approved for the National Register of Historic Places.

An unhappy group of people are promising to continue challenging the proposed design guidelines for Cape Girardeau's first residential historic district.

David McLain, a Scott City police officer who lives on Hillcrest Drive, said the guidelines are effectively establishing what amounts to "fashion police" for homeowners.

Rick Blattner said he's concerned he'd be forced into an expensive replacement for the fragile tile roof on his one-of-a-kind house on Highland Drive. Others expressed similar concerns.

Several people at Wednesday's Cape Girardeau historic preservation commission meeting were unhappy to learn there would be no public hearing. McLain delivered a letter to the board that said in part, "I find I would probably not be permitted to accomplish what I had planned."

McLain helped plan the residential historic district but refused to sign the petition to the city, he said, because it was too restrictive. His letter said city councilwoman Debra Tracy, who lives in the proposed district, was wrong to sign the petition because it was a conflict of interest. McLain and his wife, Lynn, have said they want to see some kind of preservation action. They don't agree with having to apply for a certificate of appropriateness before making changes to any part of their home visible from the street.

Charles DiStefano asked Richard Reinhardt Jr., a planning technician for the city, what would happen if he modified his home's exterior without a certificate. Reinhardt said the neighbors could file a complaint and that there was a possibility of a per-day fine until the situation was corrected.

The design guidelines will next be reviewed by the planning and zoning commission before being sent to the city council for a final vote. The city council would have two public hearings before finalizing the guidelines.

Two commission members, Dick Kent Withers and Jim Blakemore, said the guidelines are intended to help the homeowners preserve the neighborhood. Asked what the board would do if a homeowner needed to make a repair, such as replacing a tile roof, but couldn't afford a historically accurate replica, Blakemore said, "if the neighbors didn't have a problem with it, the historic preservation board might, just might, approve it. But I'm not 100 percent sure."

The board also approved the National Register of Historic Places applications for the Julius Vasterling building and the old Jefferson School. Those applications will be reviewed Feb. 13 by the Missouri Advisory Council in Jefferson City.

pmcnichol@semissiourian.com

388-3646

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