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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

preservation advocacy

I began an effort back in June to get Community Development and the mayor to acknowledge the Historical Society and Preservation Commission in the process of reviewing demolitions. Such participation is codified in city ordinance in the case of the Preservation Commission, and in the federal Preservation Act in the case of the Historical Society and other groups that have standing in preservation matters.
No real progress was made in this endeavor until the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, HUD, and Ohio Department of Development joined forces and suspended the city's first round of $1.6 million Neighborhood Stabilization Funds pending the city responding to these groups, including Downtown Mansfield which stepped up as a group with standing in preservation issues and in support of our efforts.
Even under this looming threat the city is floundering in its response. An invitation by the city to a "discussion" of a list of subjects bearing on our concerns and issues turned out to be a "presentation" last Thursday night about the necessities of demolitions in ridding the city of blight. As Saturday's News Journal article pointed out, we were pretty much muttering amongst ourselves as we left this "meeting". If the reporter had listened a little closer she would have heard the phrase "they still don't get it" more than once.
So what has the city's Community Development Department learned and what doesn't it yet "get":
They have learned that preservation interests have to be invited to participate and included in the process if a project involves federal tax dollars and would harm historic properties, even if the city has chosen in the past to ignore this and a similar process mirrored in the city's own Preservation Ordinance.
They have learned that our participation doesn't begin only after Community Development has determined that a property is historic, but begins with our participation in the determination of whether it is historic, and with the participation of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office in Columbus.
They have learned that the department of HUD and the Ohio Department of Development which hands out the federal dollars will support OHPO and our interests and intervene.
But they have not learned how to implement this process. They do not yet understand that "consulting party status" can and must be bestowed on groups with "standing" and that each must be dealt with by the city. While some individuals or groups with standing may wish to work through the Richland County Historical Society, which the city was literally forced to include in the new Programmatic Agreement, they are nevertheless not required to do so, nor would the RCHS be required to advocate for them. And the city will need to recognize this when they submit a plan to OHPO as part of the requirement to repair the process here in Mansfield.
At present, the city's hope that they have only been forced to open up the process to the RCHS will be dashed when they find out that Columbus will not accept a plan that curtails other groups with standing. It also remains to be seen whether our city administration understands that engaging consulting parties is a two-way street and that they need to share information with consulting parties.
The city has also not learned that "transparency" is only a prerequisite for this process, not its sum total, and we need to learn this distinction throughout the process of city government, not just preservation. The Preservation Act codifies public "participation"!
The city has not learned the implications that within the Mansfield community and city government there is a department that operates the biggest HUD program in the county and has had the educational resources of HUD and ODOD to help them properly implement federally funded programs over the last decade or more, and yet that department has expressed not only ignorance of the process but resistance to it, forcing preservation advocates, including the city's own Preservation Commission, housed under the auspices of that department, to look elsewhere for the expertise and support it needed.
Painting by Tim McKee

Monday, November 16, 2009

preservation advocacy and neighborhood revitalization

Thomas Palmer of Preservation Ohio attended last Thursday's presentation in Council Chambers and has written a thoughtful article that you can read here on his MyHometownOhio blog.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

new journal report

The News Journal report on Thursday night's meeting ran today. Looking at my last post, and reading today's article makes me realize how desperate I've been to see something positive in the meeting, while the public perception via the News Journal makes it seem hopeless that the city administration will ever "get it". As reported, the meeting, which was supposed to help ameleorate the city's blatant disregard of the Preservation Act in the past and get NSP funding restored, was instead a propoganda presentation about demolitions.
Prior to this meeting a person whom the mayor would still talk to at the time asked him for an opportunity for us to meet with him and discuss the issues, but this presentation was all that we got. The mayor now has not returned a subsequent call from this intermediary to follow up on any possiblity of getting together.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

meeting tonight

Tonight's meeting in council chambers turned out to be a "public meeting". It was anticlimatic. About 80% about the evils of vacant properties and 10% the real issues of Section 106 Review and NSP funding. Chuck Gleaves pointed out that the thrust of the presentation seemed to be that blight was evil, and he wondered whether the city thought there were people who disagreed with that and needed convincing. Dan Seckel followed up with some questions about why in all his years on the Preservation Commission there were no reviews put before the commisson, and Ms. Baker answered honestly that they had not been done. That was one of two breakthroughs with this meeting. The other was that the mayor and presenters did not interject any surprises that would sink the progress of resolving these issues, as they have been prone to do up till now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

skyline at sunup

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

downtown mansfield

OHPO in Columbus has informed Community Development that Downtown Mansfield's request to sign onto the Programmatic Agreement which they made on October 21 must be implemented.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Ta Da! The new east gable finial going back in place today.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

programmatic agreement

Downtown Mansfield's exclusion from the Programmatic Agreement, as reported in the News Journal yesterday, was an unfortunate development. I supported their involvement, and the mayor's reasons for not including them are troubling. Mark Epstein at OHPO in Columbus signed the agreement without Downtown included in order to expedite the resolution of the issues causing suspension of NSP funds. He did not sign it based on any effort to cut "red tape" and limit the number of groups involved in the process. To characterize public involvement in any government undertaking as an impediment as the mayor did, especially in an area so thoroughly codified in federal law, is, repeat, troubling. Epstein had every right to hold up the agreement and require that Downtown was included, which they had already directed the city to do.
Downtown will be working through our organization and their interests will be served. I have had an excellent working relationship with Downtown Mansfield through the Preservation Commission and Historical Society. Downtown partnered with the Preservation Commission in creation of the Central Park Historic District in 2003.
The meeting being called next Thursday to discuss NSP funding, Programatic Agreement, Preservation, etc. includes some interesting invitees. The "Woodland Group" on the list consists of the vocal opposition group which fought down the Preservation Commission's attempt to create a Woodland Historic District. This will be their opportunity to be supporters of preservation, as they professed to be.
Also interesting was the exclusion of the Historical Society from the list of invitees in the initial round of letters that went out. That has been corrected, and I have received my personal invitation.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

last night's council vote

Despite the current suspension of NSP funds to the city and at the urging of Mayor Culliver, Council voted 5-4 for demolition of 147 W. First Street last night. The Historical Society had requested to participate in the Section 106 Review of that property and requested Council to table or vote the issue down. Mayor Culliver professed support of preservation at the Council meeting while urging council to vote for the demolition of the property at the same time. He explained that he had saved the property at 331 Prescott from demolition through his own response to learning it was coming down when informed by my voicemail of the situation. He said he has worked everything out with Columbus yesterday afternoon in a conference call, so the city knows what it has to do to get the NSP funding suspension lifted. He assured council that voting this demolition would not hamper that response because they can hold the demolition in abeyance until the review is approved.
The mayor gave the impression that talking directly with Columbus (HUD, ODOD, and OHPO) he had cleared the way to oppose the Historical Society request to table or vote down the demolition. The Richland County Historical Society has singled out this and one other property on a list of 57 demolitions.
-property address of 147 W. First St. corrected in this post-

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

demo list

Among the statements made by the mayor and Ms. Baker was that the Preservation Commission was presented with a demolition list in September. Checking back in my blog posts, I note that was actually on October 15, just two weeks ago and we have completely responded to that list in good faith, both from the Preservation Commission and the Historical Society.

news journal article this morning

Well, it's on the front page this morning. I want to go on record as saying that the News Journal article was dead on. Congratulations to the reporter Linda Martz for understanding the situation so thoroughly.
It is interesting that Ms. Baker brought up the Rennaisance because Dan Seckel was the architect and pesented the project before the Preservation Commission over two years ago, including tearing down the adjacent building. I'm not clear if Ms. Baker thinks we should have saved it or what her concern is?
This was not supposed to be the way we are going to fix this situation anyway. OHPO, HUD, and ODOD are not raising issues of how the city operated their HUD program in the past, and for Cindy Baker and the mayor to bring the issue of past operating procedure out in a public forum and now on the front page of the News Journal is a pretty ugly way to comply with a simple directive from OHPO to move forward properly and save the funding.

Monday, November 2, 2009


I went to tonight's caucus but learned that the committee meeting already going on would have been the place to be. I guess my name was bandied about quite a bit. I talked to the mayor afterwards, and he does not seem to be fully aware of how thoroughly his administration has stonewalled the Historical Society. I talked to the law director some also. I guess since they only just got the letter from OHPO on Friday it will take the Community Development Department a little longer to digest it and stop just railing against me.

the crows

Tonight the first advance party of crows is trying to roost here.
This year I'm not letting them get a foothold.

programmatic agreement

The mayor's office has contacted the Historical Society president Tim McKee this afternoon requesting that he come in and sign on to the new Programmatic Agreement. Also OHPO has stipulated that the city respond to our repeated requests for information about HUD funded projects as a condition for OHPO acceptance of the agreement.

147 w first st

147 W. First Street was the latest addition to the demolition list and due for Council vote tomorrow night. The Historical Society notified the city over the weekend that it was requesting consulting party status in the Section 106 Review of this demolition and requested that it be taken off the table for Council vote. The latest resport from Council is that it will now be taken off the table. Under threat by the Ohio Department of Development of loss of NSP funds, the city appears to be ready to execute a new Programmatic Agreement with consulting party status to the Historical Society and now Downtown Masnfield which has requested similar recognition. The subject will come up at tonight's Council Caucus.
Today marks exactly 5 months since the Historical Society's initial request to the city on June 2.