Supporters, opponents of Cape historic district to make cases Monday

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The lengthy process of establishing a local historic district along North West End Boulevard won't end quietly.

While a majority of landowners in the area have signed two petitions asking Cape Girardeau to establish the Boulevard Local Historic District, opponents of the idea aren't ready to give up trying to stop it. On Monday, they will get their last chance when the Cape Girardeau City Council holds a public hearing on the idea at the beginning of its regular 7 p.m. meeting at city hall.

The process began with a petition to the city in 2007. The proposal hit a snag in February when the Cape Girardeau Planning and Zoning Commission sent it back to the neighborhood for a second petition drive because supporters portrayed the original idea as a way to control parking and rental conversions. Those provisions could not be included, but supporters haven't given up on adding them.

The district is bounded by Broadway on the south and North West End Boulevard on the west. It includes Park Avenue north of Broadway, Normal Avenue to Henderson Avenue, Rockwood Drive, Hillcrest Drive and Highland Drive.

Supporters and opponents plan to be on hand to make their case. Mike Sheehan, a former member of the city's Historic Preservation Commission and the neighborhood leader of the project, said the objections by some who see infringement on property rights are outweighed by the protection the designation would give the neighborhood.

Homeowners in the neighhorhood adjacent to Southeast Missouri State University worry about homes being converted to rental properties, with the extra parking demands and activity that generates, he said. And with the city looking at a complete overhaul of the zoning rules that will include a special overlay near the university to allow denser use of housing than elsewhere in the city, the historic district designation will keep that change at bay.

"You can see what would happen," Sheehan said. "You can kind of picture that. All we are trying to do is keep it 20 years from now the way it looks now."

But for some property owners, the restrictions on altering the appearance of their home, including bans on many cheaper, modern materials, is an attack on private property rights. Many changes, including those that in other locations would not require a building permit from the city, would have to be submitted to the Historic Preservation Commission for a "certificate of appropriateness."

"If you are maintaining a home in good order, I don't think" the commission "would disapprove something," said Lynn McLain, who has been among the property owners who have raised objections at past meetings. "But you can't get up on a Sunday morning, decide it's a nice temperature, just the right day to paint, and run out to Lowes."

rkeller@semissourian.com

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Pertinent addresses:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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