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State law changes regarding historic districts in Bloomington

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At a meeting yesterday the Bloomington City Council discussed changing the city’s rules regarding historic districts. Most discussion surrounded a change that city attorney Patty Mulvehill said was required by state law.

Conservation districts are less restrictive to neighborhoods than full historic districts, which require the city’s Historic Preservation Commission to approve all exterior changes to homes. Instead, designating an area as a conservation district is intended to prevent radical changes.

In conservation districts, major events like demolition and new construction require prior review. Several residents of the McDoel Gardens Neighborhood, which is a conservation district, spoke in favor of keeping the city laws as they are. One of those residents was Paul Ash.

“I just wanted to emphasize what an excellent tool this is, it’s not broke, let’s not fix it, let’s just keep going the way we are,” Ash said.

Members of the City Council said they were sympathetic with the residents’ concerns. But member Dorothy Granger said the city didn’t have any other options.

“I agree that what we have is good, and I just want reiterate that the changes we have to make are state changes,” Granger said, “We will work very hard to work very that the people within the conservation districts understand what we have to go through.”

Residents of the city’s three conservation districts will now have to hold a vote to keep their current statuses. Council member Tim Mayer asked Mulvehill to explain the logic behind the state law.

“What I try to explain is that unfortunately what we see in higher level of government is that we see people who have written the law without ever practicing it,” Mulvehill said, “It’s kind of just what we’re stuck with.”

During a straw poll at the end of the meeting, the Council indicated support for the changes in the law. All seven members who were present voted for the change.

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