By a 4-1 vote, the Rolla Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday afternoon recommended passage of an ordinance that would form a Rolla Historic Preservation Commission.
"I plan on making a motion to approve it, but I will vote no," said Commissioner Dennis Bennett, who said he saw the ordinance as "a toe in the door" for the government to regulate private property owners.
Community Development Director John Petersen said the ordinance makes designation of historic properties "entirely voluntary" and added, "No property owner can be compelled to have their property designated or listed as an historic property."
Bennett asked Petersen what the benefit of the designation would be.
"Prestige," said Petersen. "Pride. Honor."
Petersen, who said he had been asked by City Administrator John Butz to research and write an ordinance dealing with preserving historic properties, said Rolla has a history of not paying attention to or saving its historic properties.
The proposed ordinance calls for the appointment of a five-person commission to review historic properties and to decide what properties may be designated as historic, assuming the owners seek that designation.
"A primary duty of the proposed Rolla Historic Preservation Commission is to maintain an ongoing survey or inventory of historically significant buildings/places along with the task of advising the city council about historic property designation," Petersen wrote in his agenda commentary.
In addition, the commission will oversee an historic property list.
"There are 10 criteria to be on the Rolla historic property list," Petersen said.
Property owners will voluntarily register their historic sites and the commission will vote whether or not to recommend the site to the city council for final action. If the commission turns the property down, the owner may request a hearing before the council.
"The historical society endorses it," Petersen said.
Indeed, several members of the Phelps County Historical Society attended the meeting, and organization President Jean Moran Day spoke in favor of passage of the recommendation to the council.
"We'd like to see more done to retain historically significant properties in Rolla," she said, noting Rolla has fewer of such buildings. For instance, the historic Rock House was moved from Rolla to another county last year.
Day said the formation of a commission will make Rolla a certified local government for historic properties, an authorization that will allow property owners to apply for certain grants for the rehabbing of historic properties.
Acknowledging those grants are taxpayers' money, Day said that money currently goes to property owners in other communities that have the property historical certification. Those property owners are spending that money in their communities' home improvement stores.
"I'd rather have my money go to Lowe's in Rolla," she said. "Or Wilson Electric, Freedom Electric or Mike Newkirk Plumbing. If we don't get that ordinance, we don't get those grants."
Page 2 of 2 - The ordinance also allows the formation of historic districts, based on the number of historic properties in the designated area.
Voting to recommend the ordinance were Jack Morris, Greg Sawyer, Janese Martin and Don Brown.
In other action, the commission:
• Recommended a conditional use permit to allow the establishment of a family entertainment and recreation complex at 1100 Highway 72 East. Fat Cats Entertainment Center Josh Noe made the request.
•Recommended the rezoning of lots 10-12 in Block 11 of James Addition from C-1 (neighborhood business district) to C-2 (general retail district) zoning. Owner Leroy Daniels said he wants to build storage units on the property, located at the corner of Second and Elm streets.
• Recommended the subdivision plat of Pathways Addition Plat No. 2. This was recommended and approved once, but due to a large rock outcropping, the lots had to be changed, so the plat has been resubmitted.