Issue Of Property Owners’ Rights Delays Historical Designation Ordinance
An updated ordinance that would protect historical sites in Santa Clarita is in dire straits after Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting.
After a one-and-a-half hour discussion, the Commission ultimately voted to continue the item to a date uncertain, giving City staff time to conduct stakeholder meetings and rework the ordinance.
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If approved, the ordinance would have overturned a preexisting historical designation ordinance in the city’s Unified Development Code.
Passed in September 2008 by the City Council, the Historic Preservation Ordinance establishes a moratorium for altering, demolishing or relocating the property on 45 sites.
To do so, property owners would have to acquire a minor use permit after review by the Planning Commission.
When the ordinance was passed two years ago, the City Council directed staff to return with one that was more comprehensive.
Last night, the Commission (Commissioner Bill Kennedy was absent) voted unanimously to continue the ordinance.
Before Tuesday’s meeting, City staff worked with the SCV Historical Society and Newhall Redevelopment Committee to specify properties under the ordinance.
Whereas the interim ordinance lists 45 properties, the updated ordinance lists 27 properties for historic designation.
These properties include the Newhall Ice Company and Old Newhall Jail. A closer examination of each property’s history and significance split 18 properties over to a “not recommended for designation” list.
Speaking in front of the Commission, a handful of property owners contended that the proposed ordinance infringed upon their property rights. Others said they wanted more incentives.
“We’d perhaps have to lower the (asking price for our) property by 50 percent because of the ordinance,” said Michael Guglielmino, owner of Newhall Hardware. “Our building would be sort of left in a time capsule.”
In its decision, the Planning Commission directed staff to acknowledge the property owners’ requests in any reworked proposal.
“This is a very flawed ordinance. I will not approve this ordinance if it does not include property owner consent,” said Commissioner Dee Dee Jacobson.
Jacobson said that she felt unqualified to determine what exactly was “historic” and that another legislative body should perhaps handle the review for the designation process.
Currently, a hearing before the Planning Commission is required if the property owner wishes to demolish a historic resource or potential historic resource.
Like the tentative ordinance, the proposed ordinance establishes a 10-year moratorium on permits if a historic landmark is illegally demolished.
With Tuesday’s decision, this ordinance is in limbo, compromised by whether or not something deemed historical should remain more or less untouched.
Said Duane Harte, “There’s an extremely fine line between telling a property owner what they can and can’t do with their own property and preserving something with historical value.”