Just a few short weeks ago, the Peoria City Council gutted the Historic Preservation Ordinance by "de-listing" a designated landmark, the Roanoke Apartments.
The building's owner, Trinity Lutheran Church ,wasted no time in its demolition.
Now all that remains of that beautiful Prairie-style structure are photos and a flat plot of dirt where the building proudly stood for a century.
Now, adding insult to injury, the council continues their assault on the Historic Preservation Ordinance. This Tuesday, they will vote on increases in fees by amounts that have never before been seen.
Although they are arguing that the fee increases are needed to offset the cost of enforcement, they seem more designed to stifle preservation and make landmarking more difficult and less desirable for the owners of historic structures.
For many years, a Certificate of Appropriateness has cost the home-owner $25. This certificate is required for anyone who wants to perform an exterior update to an historic structure in accordance with the law.
Granted the $25 fee seems low, so what is a reasonable increase?
Perhaps a hike to $35 or $40?
Even a doubling of the fee to $50, while steep, could be argued as necessary.
Henry Holling and his council henchmen have decided to raise the fee to $250.
That's right, a ten-fold increase.
That is a fee increase of ONE THOUSAND PERCENT!
When is the last time you have seen any governmental fee (at any level) increased by ONE THOUSAND PERCENT?
This means that any homeowner who wants to change the position of a downspout or add an attached flower box will need to pay $250 simply to ASK FOR PERMISSION.
(The request may well be denied with no refund or rebate of this fee).
Additionally, city staff is recommending the same ONE THOUSAND PERCENT increase in the fee for an individual landmark application. Currently, the fee is $50. Under the staff recommended changes, the fee would rise to $505 (the Historic Preservation Commission has recommended an increase to $105).
These fees seem less designed to increase revenue, but rather to discourage landmarking and preservation by owners. It discourages owners to landmark by having to pay $505 for consideration and knowing that any future external project is automatically increased by $250.
It also encourages current owners of historic homes to circumvent the law and perform updates without HPC approval.
It is hard to believe that this is even a serious consideration, and yet there it is in black and white on the council agenda.
CJ Summers, the premiere local blogger, and current candidate for City Council is usually quick to expose these types of outrages and foolishness from the city "leaders".
I had hoped that, as a former member of the Heart of Peoria Commission and a self-professed "new urbanist", he would emerge as a candidate that historic preservationists could rally behind.
However, his silence thus far on this issue has been deafening.
=UPDATE: CJ informs me that he was unaware this would be on Tuesday's agenda =
On Friday, I spoke to candidate Chuck Grayeb who was unaware of the issue, but promised to review it. He seemed genuinely shocked at the amount of the proposed increases.
The vote, however, is scheduled for this Tuesday, and I hope that the current council will at least have the decency to defer till a new council is seated.
I also have not found any public statement on this outrage from Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation or from Peoria Historical Society.
Where are the voices for preservation when needed?