Thursday, January 7, 2010

After Federal Funding was suspended Mansfield Ohio must have new process for historic review. Could Cincinnati be next?

331 Prescott Street, a property once owned by Joseph Allonas, a superintendent of the Aultman and Taylor Company who made agricultural machinery and was a major factor in the Mansfield economy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Allonas was responsible for and patented a clover hulling attachment for the threshers manufactured by his company.

Because of that Association, the city should find alternatives to demolition. That would likely not have happened just a few months ago.

Mansfield was sent that opinion in a letter from Mark J. Epstein, head of the Resource Protection and Review Department.

331 Prescott was among 57 on the city's demolition list but was pulled in November after local preservationists determined it was one of three that possibly were worth review for historic value.

The Richland County Historical Society and Downtown Mansfield were granted third party review status in November after $1.6 million in federal funds were suspended because the city didn't have a signed agreement with at least one local group interested in historic review. Consulting party status" can and must be bestowed on groups with "standing" and that each must be dealt with by the city

By comparison the City of Cincinnati had thousands on its demo List which may have not been properly reviewed and No one , no neighborhood group not even CDA has standing as Consulting Party Status.

Epstein stated in his opinion. "While the house has suffered from years of deferred maintenance, it is our opinion that it retains sufficient integrity to be eligible for listing in the NRHP."

He went stated that Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires the city first consider alternatives that would avoid or minimize any adverse effect of demolition. The process should involve an analysis of objective cost estimates for rehabilitation that would allow the house to meet local code and comparing the estimates with demolition costs.

Epstein said if rehabilitation of the building is not feasible for economic or other reasons, he said the house could be demolished once the city, Ohio Historic Preservation Office and consulting parties agree. Local Preservationists have said progress has already been made to secure a new owner and land bank it.

As I reported yesterday the City of Cincinnati seems to have no process for review nor, a signed agreement with a Consulting party interested in Historic review just like Mansfield did.The Preservation Act codifies public "participation" and is not happening in Cincinnati because the city has no real process in place for that to happen.

Cincinnati Preservation Association has been trying throughout 2009 to find out the city process for review with limited response. As President of a local neighborhood association whose bylaws clearly state the purpose of the organization is the Historic Preservation of homes within the Knox Hill Neighborhood Boundaries we have no voice in the process because there is none.

Our only avenue is to comment at the "Nuisance Board Hearing" in which according to Ed Cunningham in his email response to me the city has already determined a property is not eligible. Review and public comment on that review should happen BEFORE properties are "rubber stamped' for demolition by the Nuisance Hearing Board which in my opinion has a serious "conflict of interest" by being staffed with city department employees who supervise the very inspectors bringing the nuisance request.

Hundreds of properties on Cincinnati's Demo list could be saved if proper review was done and most could be stabilized for less than the cost of demolition.


alan wigton said...

Paul. A new Programmatic Agreement comes around only every so often, and getting signed on to it is a good thing, but not necessary to be a "consulting party" as a preservation organization. You have a right at any time to request consulting party status on any particular federally funded project that requires Section 106 Review. I think Cincinnati is probably doing the reviews. In Mansfield we were faced with the fact that they were not even doing them. OHPO in Columbus hadn't had a review submitted from the city in years. But the reason for the suspension was the city not responding to our requests for participation, and of course they didn't want to respond because they didn't want to have to do the required submissions.
If you haven't already done this, I suggest you send a letter to the Community Development Dept. head requesting a list of federally funded demolitions and rehabs currently being planned. Your intention then, which you can explain in the letter, is to notify the city if you would like consulting party status on any particular projects. Then you will have some forewarning and can submit your input to the city, which will be included with the submission to Columbus by the city.
The 106 review process determines if a property could be eligible for the NRHP, and thus get further consideration for protection or mitigation. Properties that would contribute to a potential National Register Historic District could get protection also, even though individually they are not eligible. If Cincinnati has a Preservation Plan, probably created back in the 80s, it will have potential NR historic districts enumerated, and that would be a big factor with any contributing property within those areas, even though no distric was created.
Alan Wigton

Paul Wilham said...

We have learned there is NO, repeat NO, process for public input. It has been done in the Urban Conservation office behind closed doors with no communiity input. All they have been doing is looking to see if it's on the survey or on the potential district survey and thats it. AND its been going on that way for years! We have talked to the state preservation and filed a citizen complaint with HUD to force them to the table to creat a comment or hearing process. Who knows how many potentially historic properties were demoed with federal monies in a closed door process!

alan wigton said...

Hmmm... In Mansfield they were looking properties up to see if they were on the National Register, and that was all. Mansfield's original agreement going way back was an "in house" process, which is probably what Cincinnati has. But when Mansfield dropped the consulting architect, and no longer had certified staff in house, they no longer had the option of in house review, and everything sould have been going to Columbus. With the newest Programmatic Agreement they must submit all but the under 50 year old stuff, etc.
The extent of the "public process" that we have now working in Mansfield is that we are recieving lists of potential demolitions. The city is not engaging us in any other way, although they should be. If we tell them a property is problematic and we want to participate in review, then we pull together historical information as quickly as possible and submit it to the city. They don't say boo to us or anything, but presumably they are going to include our submission with theirs when it goes to Columbus. To insure that it does, we have copied it to OHPO. If we make our submission to the city, and OHPO rules as they did with the Prescott house, then the city gets a letter telling them they have to consult with us on the outcome. That is when we need to pull a "savior" out of the hat or something, to prevent ultimate demolition.
With Cincinnati's "in house" review process I would think consulting party input would trigger submission to OHPO, especially if you copied the submission to OHPO and it was a reasonable document.
Up to this point in the process the only formal opportunity for public input would have been the review of the overall funding program, such as a public meeting to discuss the NSP grant application.
So apparantly as we are finding out, the only two things the city must do is respond to your request for demolition lists, and recognize you as a consulting party on any particular demolitions you request status on. Their only other option is to deny you by saying you don't have "standing", and then OPHO should be dealing with that if it happened.