Council debates preservation policy
Several residents who have made personal property investments in the city’s historical past gave a mixture of advice to City Council regarding the manner in which to potentially assist in preservation of properties.
“It’s like having a kid that never grows up,” said Barry Phillips, who owns the Renfro-Clark home.
The property is designated as a Texas Historical Landmark. He has served on a White House special committee related to the arts and historic preservation.
“There’s always something to do,” Phillips said.
His home is situated adjacent to another property of historic significance, and he added two homes away from Mayor Ken Shetter.
Phillips has owned the home for more than 25 years, and has invested to make it historically accurate.
City officials have proposed an ordinance that would protect properties with an intrinsic historic value, but City Council wants direction as to how restrictive an ordinance should be.
“We could never govern who you sell your property to,” Mayor Ken Shetter told Phillips. “We could control what is done with that property.”
There are 26 properties city staff has identified which could have a historic value. Presently, the city has no ordinance relating to historic properties, and some on City Council have suggested that may be best.
“I’ve been a proponent for some kind of preservation property to prevent the few historic properties we have from being destroyed,” said Vicki Sorenson, who resides in a historic home. “We’ve had some historic buildings destroyed before anyone could do anything about it.”
One of those properties, Phillips said, is the train depot near the railroad tracks in Old Town.
“I’d give almost anything to have [the train depot] back,” Shetter said.
Structures like the Renfro-Clark home should outlast their owners, Phillips said, “and most of us,” Shetter added.
That’s concerning to property owners who have invested in preserving historic properties.
“Today, there’s nothing we can say to Barry to promise his work will be preserved, nor is there anything we can say to anyone else,” Shetter said.
City Council could soon hear an ordinance that could set policy as to preservation of historic properties, or at least give the properties a hearing. It might begin with designating properties of significance and then considering a historical committee that may convene as necessary. Then again, City Council may not take action on a policy.
Phillips said a committee would have merit to help owners of historic properties, given members have useful expertise.
Any policy appears as if it may have an opt-in or opt-out clause, allowing property owners to participate, or not.
“You should have a choice of what to do with your property,” City Councilman Ronnie Johnson said.
There’s the potential writing policy for historical preservation could result in unintended consequences, City Councilman Matt Aiken said.
“Historical preservation is a noble cause,” he said. “We could potentially get ourselves in a bigger mess than we started with.”
Shetter was clear to note the present status of a proposal.
“Let’s be clear that no one has even ever put on our agenda what color to tell people to paint something.”
Each resident who addressed City Council was asked by Shetter to provide direction and opinion of an ordinance, should one ever come to fruition for presentation to City Council.