The Michigan Historic Preservation Network has released information about this sudden attack on Michigan’s historic resources.
Text of statement:
HISTORIC RESOURCES IN MICHIGAN JEOPARDIZED BY BILL TO
AMEND 1970 PA 169
Michigan’s historic places drive economic development, attract businesses, draw tourists and
new residents, create a sense of place, and enhance our quality of life. Keeping these historic
places is so important that historic preservation has been upheld as a public purpose under
the U. S. Constitution—preserving historic resources is a valid governmental goal and local
historic district ordinances have been upheld as an appropriate means to secure that goal.
Local historic districts are the only way for communities to manage and protect their historic
assets, and 78 communities to date have chosen to enact ordinances to protect their historic
assets at the local level, under current state law. The bill to amend 1970 Public Act 169
jeopardizes the efficient and fair process for establishing local historic districts already in place
under PA 169, reduces protection given to resources in local historic districts, and diminishes
the authority of local historic district commissions and local legislative bodies.
Weakens Protection for Historic Resources
This bill would dispose of the current process for dissolving historic districts, allowing
local legislative bodies to eliminate local historic districts without guidelines or
justification, and without community input.
This bill would reduce reliance on accepted, best-practice Standards used nationwide for
commission decision-making, introducing uncertainty into the process.
This bill would change the appeals process for an aggrieved property owner within a
district. Instead of appealing to a neutral state board, which has appellate jurisdiction
because of its expertise, appeals would be heard at the local level where political and
development pressures could affect the outcome.
Reduces Local Control
This bill would make it impossible for local legislative bodies to act quickly to head off a
sudden development threat to a community landmark. Currently, in municipalities with
a historic district ordinance, a local legislative body can place a threatened resource
under study for local designation and delay development in that area for up to 6 months.
This bill proposes to petition local property owners and acquire a 2/3 majority in support
before a historic district study committee could even be appointed, wiping out the local body’s ability to act quickly under threat.
This bill would mandate that after a local legislative body decides to establish a local historic district, the public in that unit of government must vote in support of the district in a general election to make it official. Further, the electorate will have to vote on its local historic districts every 10 years, even in communities with long-standing historic districts, imposing unnecessary and substantial costs upon municipalities in staff time and community education. These inefficient processes undermine local representative democracy. Why would the State impose a sunset clause on local decisions?
To establish a local historic district, this bill would require petitioning property owners in a proposed district for majority consent and then require the general electorate to vote in favor of establishing a district, whereas no such petitioning or voting would be required to dissolve a local historic district.
The ability to designate and protect single landmark resources would be critically compromised as, again, majority consent would need to be granted—meaning one property owner in such circumstances. If the property owner were absent, unresponsive, or not in favor, that resource could not be protected from alteration or demolition, and a treasured community asset could be lost.