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Staff looking at proposal to move duties to another city commission

The Farmington City Council and city staff are considering the next steps for continuing heritage preservation efforts since funding for the Heritage Preservation Commission was eliminated a few years ago.

The topic was discussed during the July 8 City Council workshop. Planning Manager Tony Wippler said the City Council directed city staff at the meeting to look at moving Heritage Preservation Commission duties to another existing city commission.

“They’re not looking to repeal any ordinance. They still feel heritage preservation is something the city should do and continue to do,” he said on July 9.

History

In 1992, the city created a heritage preservation program when a historic preservation ordinance was adopted. The ordinance also started the city’s first Heritage Preservation Commission, which historically was composed of five members appointed by the City Council. Those members had to include professionals of history, architecture, architectural history, archaeology planning, other related disciplines or people who demonstrated an interest or knowledge of historic preservation, according to a July 8 city report.

Since the 1990s, the commission designated 16 properties as “Heritage Landmarks” and an additional 12 properties were determined to be eligible for the designation, the city said.

The main functions of the program include preserving buildings, site structures, objects and districts which reflect elements of the city’s historical architectural, archaeological or cultural heritage; help with “protecting and enhancing the city’s appeal to residents, visitors and businesses”; foster civic pride in accomplishments of the city’s past and promote preservation, protection and use of historic buildings, sites, structures and objects for education and general welfare of residents, the report states.

The Heritage Preservation Commission was also charged with carrying out design review provisions contained in the city’s preservation ordinance. The group could advise property owners on exterior changes, alterations and other improvements to designated heritage landmarks and worked with the Planning Commission on development projects with heritage resources, according to the city.

The City Council cut all funding for Heritage Preservation Commission, including commission stipends and consultant fees, as part of the 2017 budget process, something Heritage Preservation Commission members at the time advocated against. Wippler said the total funding was between $8,000 and $9,000 for the commission.

The group has since ceased to exist without the funding in place.

“By continuing to do nothing with regard to the commission itself or the ordinances that direct the HPC, the city is at risk of not being able to fulfill the responsibilities and duties that are outlined in city code,” the July 8 city report said. “Staff has consulted the city attorney and not having made any appointments to the HPC exposes the city to potential challenges for not being able to process certain applications as currently outlined in city code.”

Options

According to city staff, if the council wanted to reestablish the Heritage Preservation Commission the recommendation was that the commission meet bimonthly and consist of five members appointed by the City Council. The annual cost of reestablishing the group would be about $900 (a $30 stipend for each of the five members per meeting for a total of six meetings annually). Staff would not have recommended outside consulting services.

If the council did not want to start the commission back up, heritage code provisions would have to be amended to delete the entry in its entirety and amend the building regulations and title 10 codes to delete references to the Heritage Preservation Commission.

Wippler said the City Council did not want to completely eliminate the city’s heritage preservation program and asked staff to look at having those efforts be part of another commission rather than having a separate body carry out the duties outlined in the ordinance.

Which commission would be taking on those duties hasn’t been fleshed out yet, Wippler said. The move will likely require some amendment of the ordinance and this is what staff will look into over the next few weeks.

Wippler said in the past there have been problems with trying to fill open positions on some of the commissions. The City Council believed moving the heritage preservation duties to an existing group might be an easier short-term fix versus starting another separate group.

“Their main concern was just not (being) able to get enough applicants,” he said.

Staff will look through the entire ordinance and work with the city attorney on what needs to be amended. Once a decision is made about which commission would take on heritage preservation duties, staff would meet with that group before a final decision is made by the City Council, Wippler said.

Wippler said he expects the topic to go before the City Council for further consideration within the next few months.

“We’re not going to push it through really quick,” he said.

Patty Dexter can be reached at patty.dexter@ecm-inc.com.

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