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Neighborhood Report

Historic? It may be up to the owner

Tampa Preservationists go up against property rights advocates in the designation debate.

Published October 20, 2006

How much input should owners have in whether their properties are designated as historic landmarks?

Preservationists, property rights advocates and City Council members are debating the question vigorously.

The City Council voted 7-0 last week not to consider cigar factory owners as a group but instead to designate the buildings individually, so the owners who want landmark status can be a part of the process.

They took no action on individual cases.

City attorney David Smith said he could craft an ordinance that would designate properties as historic landmarks only if owners initiate the process. He also could write one that considers owner consent as one factor when making a decision.

Council member John Dingfelder made a motion to approve the second option.

But a 3-3 vote, with Linda Saul-Sena and Gwen Miller backing Dingfelder, stalled a final decision.

Council member Rose Ferlita missed the vote because she was attending a funeral.

Preservationists say an owner's desires have nothing to do with whether a structure is historically significant.

"History has decided that for us," said Jim Singleton, who argued against allowing owners to determine whether their properties are designated.

Architect Roger Grunke said historic assets should be protected even if those who own them don't want to be regulated.

When it comes to historic structures, he said, "the community's rights must take precedence over the individual's."

Currently, the Historic Preservation Commission can recommend that a property be designated historically significant and ask the City Council to approve it. That carries restrictions on whether the building can be demolished and how it can be altered. Owners must follow certain guidelines and get approval from an architectural review board to make any major changes.

Hayward Chapman, co-owner of a former cigar factory on Howard Avenue, says he doesn't want government telling him what he can do with his property. If preservationists want control of the old building, they can buy it from him, he said.

"Let them put their money where their mouth is," he said.

Jeff Freeman said he had no intention of tearing down the cigar factory building he owns.

"I simply want to be left alone," he said.

The debate over owner consent surfaced two years ago when the owners of five former cigar factories objected to the city's designating their buildings and 10 others as historic landmarks.

[Last modified October 19, 2006, 12:23:58]

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