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City Council votes to revise preservation rule

Ordinance attempts to balance property rights, historic designation

Posted: November 29, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 29, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Santa Clarita City Council members have voted to revise the city’s long-contested historic-preservation ordinance, though a final decision on the matter is still a few weeks away.

The revision is aimed at preserving individual property rights while also providing incentives for property owners to accept a historic designation for important structures, according to council members.

This was done by giving most property owners the ability to “opt in” to the ordinance if they want to seek historic designation for their properties.

Opting in would carry several enticements from the city, including fee waivers, a streamlined permitting process and the opportunity for potential city grants down the line.

In exchange, the council could weigh in on substantive changes to historic properties, including final approval on demolishing buildings.

But determining what properties to designate historic without owner input remained a sticking point for council members at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Mayor Frank Ferry said he agreed with the proposed list of 11 structures, which includes the Newhall Ice Company, Santa Clarita Courthouse and Old Newhall Jail.

“I can look at these now and say, ‘OK, there’s a clear definition to what ‘historical’ is,’” Ferry said. “And I do believe they should be preserved.”

Ferry joined council members Marsha McLean and Laurene Weste in voting in favor of the changes.

Councilman Bob Kellar, who voted against the item, called the proposed ordinance a “serious infringement on property rights.”

Councilman TimBen Boydston, who recused himself from voting on the item and addressed the council as a private citizen, criticized the ordinance, saying it was unconstitutional and would cause the value of historic properties to drop.

“History is important, but preserving buildings at the expense of demolishing our Constitution is too high a price to pay,” Boydston said.

The revised ordinance will be presented for further discussion and a final decision at the council’s meeting Dec. 11, according to city Planning Manager Jeff Hogan.



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