By Leon Worden/SCVNEWS.com
The Santa Clarita Planning Commission is scheduled next month to consider lifting current rules that make property owners jump through hoops of they want to demolish buildings in Newhall that are considered historic. The move would require subsequent City Council approval.
The anti-demolition rules were the substantive part of what was intended to be a temporary historic preservation ordinance adopted three years ago after a historic house in Newhall was demolished under a “renovation” permit without the Planning Commission or City Council’s prior knowledge.
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The current rules require Planning Commission consent – and a public hearing – prior to the relocation or demolition of one of four dozen homes and businesses that a lettered historic preservation consultant deemed historic or “potentially historic.”
Those rules are still on the books. They would be replaced by a new historic preservation ordinance that the Planning Commission will consider in an Oct. 18 public hearing.
It won’t be the commission’s first look at the replacement ordinance. Earlier this year it approved a draft that would have covered about half of the original four-dozen properties.
Most of the affected property owners objected. They contended the designation would stigmatize their homes and businesses, depressing their property values.
On Aug. 23 the City Council considered an even shorter list of properties. Instead of approving the it, the council directed the city’s planning staff to meet again with property owners and make further revisions.
The revisions were revealed in a public meeting Sept. 22.
The draft that will be presented for Planning Commission consideration next month will not include a list of properties to receive a historic designation.
Instead, it will contain an “opt-in” clause, meaning property owner consent is required before a building can be designated as historic and fall under the new ordinance.
Under the current system, listing is involuntary to the extent that certain city officials could deem a building historic and the property owner could argue against the designation at a public hearing, but ultimately the vote of the City Council would prevail on a case-by-case basis.
Also, as drafted, the new ordinance would allow property owners to change their minds. A property owner who opts in and takes advantage of the accompanying benefits – such as fee waivers for building permits and federal tax relief – could later choose to opt out, with a one-year waiting period after notifying the city of such intent.
The voluntary nature of the new ordinance means that initially, it applies to no properties in Santa Clarita. All properties would be freed from the current anti-demolition rules if the commission approves the new draft, subject to final council approval.