Proposed Historic District

The Study Committee for a potential historic district on East Ludington Avenue was appointed by the City Council in October 2009. Well over 3 years has been spent completing the study, having it reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Office and the Michigan Historical Commission, drafting an ordinance, seeking the advice and guidance of other cities, conducting 3 informational meetings, meeting privately with those property owners who requested such a meeting, and the City Council has held a public hearing on this subject.
Below you will find a synopsis composed by Dr, Bill Anderson on the progress, questions, concerns, and merits of a local historic district.

"As the City Council deliberates on the merits of creating a historic district on East Ludington Avenue I would ask that you consider the following:

Benefits to Property Owners
What are the benefits to property owners and the City?
  • I am assuming that many of these home owners like older homes and they like the location. A historic district will help preserve the historic integrity of these homes and the neighborhood.
  • Studies in other cities have demonstrated that properties in a historic district hold their value and often appreciated faster than in non-historic districts.
  • The most architecturally and historically significant concentration of homes in the City are located along East Ludington Avenue, the gateway to our City.
Concerns of Property Owners
Opposite perceived benefits are the concerns expressed by some property owners. I believe the following represent the major issues:
  • At the top of the list is the loss of property rights. There is no denying that your approval of a historic district and adoption a historical ordinance will impose some new restrictions on the property owners.
  • Complying with the requirements of an historic ordinance may involve some higher restoration costs over making repairs or modifications in the most economical manner.
  • In the past, the costs of restoring a structure in an historic district was partially offset by a state historic preservation tax credit. That incentive has been largely withdrawn by the State.
  • The City’s zoning administrator and the Historic District Commission would have the central responsibility for administering the historic ordinance. The Study Committee has repeatedly stressed that the implementing guidelines must emphasize reasonableness and moderation and the appointees to the Commission must embrace that attitude. However, some property owners in the proposed district have expressed concern that the actions of the Commission may not reflect that intent if there are rapid preservationists appointed.
  • Both here and from other cities we have conferred with, we understand that 2 specific restoration issues are often a common concern: window replacement and vinyl siding.
  • The need to further clarify and provide assurance that the ordinance will not address anything on the interior of a structure, will not pass judgment on the exterior color of a structure, or require existing modifications to be restored to their original form.
Addressing Concerns
3. What could the City do to address some of the concerns that have been communicated?
  • Seek to assure all property owners in the proposed historic district that the we have not invented a one-of-a-kind ordinance but have based it upon Public Act 169 and the state model that all 80-plus Michigan cities use.
  • Modify the proposed ordinance requiring that a majority of the members of the Historic Commission must own property in the district and reside in the City.
  • Adopt an ordinance providing a tax abatement for restoration work completed on properties as a local incentive for historic preservation. Heather Venzke has done significant investigation in helping prepare a draft ordinance based upon Public Act 146, the Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act and learned that Senator Geoff Hansen is very willing to sponsor needed legislation. If this were to happen, the City would be clearly recognized as model for addressing a local need given the demise of the State Historic Preservation Tax Credit.
  • Before an historic ordinance can take effect, it is necessary for a city to craft, adopt and promulgate standards and guidelines for rehabilitation. This along with available training, will be a wonderful learning experience for the members of the initial Historical Commission as they formulate guidelines addressing the issues of window replacement and vinyl siding and emphasizing that compatibility is the bottom line criterion.
We have been motivated by a desire to help preserve this wonderful historical asset and to elevate the image of Ludington. This is area of town where many of builders of this community lived. If we had a landmark commission which honored those structures considered landmarks in our City, surely the courthouse and several of the homes along East Ludington Avenue would be recognized in this elite category.

We the members of the Historic District Study Committee have given this our best shot and will respect whatever decision the City Council makes."

Bill Anderson
May 16, 2013