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Warren can’t depend on miracles

By   /   July 30, 2013  /   4 Comments

Despite the last minute deal last week that saved 180-year-old St. Mark’s Church from possible demolition, Warren remains woefully unprepared to stave off threats to its irreplaceable historic properties. And revisions to the demolition ordinance currently being reviewed by the town council do not go nearly far enough to prevent future threats to Warren’s iconic structures.

Over the past few months the council has been reviewing an expanded demolition ordinance that calls for added layers of town review when property owners seek to substantially alter buildings they own.

Those behind the ordinance, including members of the Voluntary Historic District Commission, wanted the expanded ordinance to apply to all buildings 100 years or older, town-wide. But at a council meeting in June, Warren’s town solicitor suggested that that wasn’t possible, and noted two changes that have to be made: First, he said, the ordinance can apply only within the bounds of Warren’s historic district; second, the extra layers of review required of property owners should be voluntary in nature.

Solicitor Anthony DeSisto’s suggested revisions take all the teeth out of the ordinance, rendering it virtually useless. Whether the ordinance should apply town-wide is debatable, but to gut it of its authority and power? The town might as well drop it entirely, for all the good it will do.

Warren has struggled with the preservation question for years. Though the town is blessed with beautiful historic buildings and a quaint downtown that has drawn and continues to draw people here, there has never been the political will to take the hard steps necessary to protect Warren’s assets. That has got to change.

The need became abundantly clear two weeks ago when developers proposed tearing down a key piece of old Warren, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop them.

In the end, St. Mark’s got a miracle in the face of Dave Wescott, but Warren shouldn’t count on such saviors. Instead, the town council needs to take real steps to put an enforceable, tough and fair demolition ordinance in place. Ushering through the watered down version currently up for debate will do nobody any good. We hope the political will is there to make real change.

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  • Published: 9 months ago on July 30, 2013
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  • Last Modified: July 30, 2013 @ 9:46 am
  • Filed Under: Editorials

4 Comments

  1. ” First, he said, the ordinance can apply only within the bounds of Warren’s historic district; second, the extra layers of review required of property owners should be voluntary in nature.”

    I know many won’t agree with me, but I do believe in individual property rights and that extra layers of review SHOULD be voluntary in nature. Those that are proponents of Sustainable Development believe that true sustainable development can never be achieved as long as their are individual property rights. They are proponents of abolishing the Constitution.

    No-one wants to see iconic structures torn down, but do we want to do away with property rights?

    • CM says:

      Only some properties are historic in nature. Protecting those historic properties won’t affect the majority of owners. This isn’t and either/or proposition, as you seem to think. If you are so concerned about property rights, then buy a house that is less than 100 years old, and let others buy the older houses. I’m from NYC and it breaks my heart every time I think about Pennsylvania Station. We now have laws protecting historic properties for a reason, and Warren needs to strengthen its laws.

  2. John Tats says:

    While I have mixed emotions over the entire issue, My question is: Whom at East Bays Staff wrote this article? Or is it that the real author was from outside of their payroll. Once again a property sat for sale for an extended period of time and someone came forward to purchase it with their own idea’s. Of course that idea wasn’t going to fly with a great many people. Just for the record, I myself prefer that whom-ever ends up with it, doesn’t disturb the outside look of the building, it most certainly has character, but there is a fine line drawn between what we all want and what the actual owner wants. That is the never ending issue through-out the entire town. The lesson here is ownership rights extend only as far as the Courtroom doors.

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