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New ordinance could help draw tourists, residents

Jan. 5, 2010

Shorewood — The Judiciary, Personnel and Licensing Committee will consider a proposal for a new historic preservation ordinance that would outline procedures for establishing historic districts and a historic commission in Shorewood. A similar proposal created a stir and much opposition when proposed in 1995, according to Village Manager Chris Swartz and Village Attorney Ray Pollen.

Karen DeHartog, president of the Shorewood Historical Society, and Sonja Ivanovich, past president of SHS, addressed the Village Board on Monday, asking for an ordinance to replace the existing one adopted in 1995.

Ivanovich said a representative of the Wisconsin Historical Society reviewed the present ordinance and said its lack of due process makes it illegal. Residents' concerns about their property rights led to the present ordinance, Pollen said.

A new ordinance would not only provide due process but would allow the creation of a historic commission and historic districts, according to the historic society representatives. The districts could be a boon to residents seeking to maintain historic properties as they could become eligible for tax credits.

Up to half the properties in the village could be considered eligible for historic landmark status, Ivanovich said, but only if the property owner agrees to apply for the status. The historic nature of the village could become a draw for tourists, a positive for the village as it seeks to draw visitors and residents to the community.

In order to create historic districts, the village would have to adopt the ordinance and then commission a historic survey. Ivanovich said the survey could be expensive.

Both she and DeHartog have attended a variety of meetings about historic preservation ordinances and believe a new one would better serve the village.

Trustees are willing to consider the change but want to make sure that it would not place burdens on property owners. Trustee Sean Cummings said he owns an older home that needed new gutters. The old ones were copper, he said, and new copper gutters are very expensive. Some people might not be able to afford copper gutters, for instance. Historic preservation ordinances deal with the exterior of buildings, but in the case of copper gutters or, for instance, slate roofs, the expenses can be substantial.

Trustee Margaret Hickey also wants the committee to consider how the Historic Commission would function with other village committees, notably the Plan Commission and Design Review Board, when residents want to work on their property.

"I want the process to be smooth and not cumbersome for people," she said.

Trustee Jeff Hanewall who heads the committee said he believes the ordinance could be written in such a way that historic buildings are reviewed by a Historic Review Board in place of the Design Review Board.

The committee will begin consideration of the proposal in February.

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