Historic designation process should be vetted before implemented

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor, 

Last week in the Express, we heard about the application for a “Commercial Historic District” as a way to make the application for Main Street Iowa more acceptable. Maybe so, but the real thing that makes it acceptable is cash and people willing to put up the money. That lack of cash and “commitment” (which usually means money) is why our grant proposal wasn’t accepted. So why are we going through these new set of hoops rather than concentrate on getting the money/”commitment” together? 

First off, this new grant proposal just sucked another $5,000 to $8,000 out of the city council coffers to get this architectural study done. The Jones County Economic Development director is also using the city to pull together even more money from the Community Foundation, up to $20,000 to get this designation. 

Yeoman asked a very important question, “Are the business owners restricted in anything they wish to do with their building?” The answer was simply “no,” so long as they don’t apply for funding they can do whatever they want. 

What hasn’t been said is this, if no one can afford to put the kind of money that is needed into renovating buildings to meet the requirements of the National Register, why do we need this study? I would first look to who, if anyone, wants to spend this money to get this designation, and that I mean who is going to want to apply for these tax credits and spend the extra money that it is going to cost to make their building compliant to those standards? 

Simply put, why spend money for something before finding out first if anyone wants to do the thing this designation was meant for? An individual can apply for the designation for a single building and he can get all the benefits this way. There are grants to help this portion of the grant written for an individual building that the building owner can apply for. So what is gained by all this money being spent? How come the council is in the dark about so much of this when they have an employee who is supposed to be making them aware of all the positives and negatives of this before they vote? Every other sort of decision is required to have several public hearings before action is taken, but this whole funding and “grant opportunity” seems to be a slam dunk operation with no time to even think about the ramifications of what this is about before the council votes to spend money. 

I think it is time to put the house in order and get the cart behind the horse. If the downtown business owners are really behind this whole Main Street Iowa program, don’t you think they would show up at the council meetings and express their interest? Show support for this designation? Or at least write a letter suggesting they are aware and very interested in getting this designation? My guess is many of the business owners haven’t made a strong commitment to Main Street Iowa because they are still wondering if the city is doing something for them or to them!

Steve Hanken

Monticello, Iowa


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