MORRISON – After a heated discussion by residents, Mayor Roger Drey broke the City Council’s tie Monday by voting to allow three building owners to opt out of the city’s controversial historic preservation district.
Steve Deckro, Judy Zuidema and the Masonic Lodge own 101, 112 and 227-228 E. Main St. The council was split 4-4 on allowing them to opt out of the downtown district, a move the Historic Preservation Commission did not approve of.
Councilwoman Marti Wood sided with the property owners, in part because she said the preservation district ordinance was not set up properly. Many notices about the ordinance were sent to water bill recipients, some of whom did not own the property where they receive their bills, she said.
“A petition was never procured, property owners were never identified,” Wood said. “The property owners we are discussing are already taking care of their properties without additional money. We should commend them, not condemn them.”
Stephanie Deckro, owner of Stephanie Deckro Interiors at 101 1/2 E. Main St., said if council members did not allow people to opt out, they would be infringing on individual rights.
“Be very cautious in taking away the rights or people who pay taxes, who maintain the buildings,” she said.
The district includes the downtown, areas along the Lincoln Highway and the Hill residential neighborhood.
Opponents of the historic district say the city failed to involve the community in its development. They also contend the rules on what can be done to the buildings are overly restrictive.
Bob Vaughn, who owns four downtown buildings and is on the Historic Preservation Commission, said the council also must consider the rights of business owners who want to be in the historic district.
One reason he bought his buildings is because they are in the district, Connelly said. “Individual rights, it cuts both ways,” he said.
Downtown areas are disappearing, and “it’s important for us to know there’s a more cohesive business climate downtown,” Vaughn said.
Also Monday, the council voted 8-0 to refer the designation of a property at 117 W. Wall Street back to the commission for further consideration. The property was approved as a historic landmark in 2006 under a different owner who applied for the designation, but the current owner has expressed concern with the designation.
Members also voted 8-0 to designate five properties historic landmarks: 708 W. Lincolnway, 13909 Lincolnway, 402 W. Lincolnway, Grove Hill Cemetery and Veterans Park and Memorial.
The current owners all have reaffirmed that they want the designation, City Administrator Jim Wise said.
How they voted
For the opt out: Michael Blean, Sarah Thorndike, Leo Sullivan, Marti Wood, Mayor Roger Drey.
Against the opt out: Guy Hayenga, Pat Zuidema, Dave Rose and Scott Connelly.