The Rapidian

Heritage Hill Neighborhood to lose protection of historic property if bills pass in Lansing

Companion bills proposed in the Michigan State Senate and House of Representatives will jeopardize historic properties and districts like Heritage Hill if it is not stopped.
Heritage Hill

Heritage Hill /Courtesy of the Heritage Hill Association

Underwriting support from:

How can you support the efforts to oppose HB 5232/SB 720?

Contact by phone, email, or in person:
Representative Chris Afendoulis (Primary Sponsor of Bill)
Senator Peter MacGregor (Primary Sponsor of SB 720)
Governor Snyder
Committee Members for HB5232: (Vote of Committee is likely February 24)
Representative Lee Chatfield (co-sponsor of Bill, Chair of Committee)
Representative Amanda Price (co-sponsor of Bill, VP of Committee)
Representative Kurt Heise
Representative David Maturen
Representative Jim Runestad
Representative Jason Sheppard (co-sponsor of Bill)
Representative Lana Theis
Representative Jeremy Moss
Representative Charles Brunner
Representative David Rutledge
Representative Sheldon Neeley
Heritage Hill historic sign

Heritage Hill historic sign /Courtesy of the Heritage Hill Association

The Historic Preservation Modernization Act, HB5232 & SB720, proposed by Representative Chris Afendoulis and Senator Peter MacGregor purports to enhance the personal property rights of residents in historic districts. In actuality, it is precisely the historic district status that protected both the personal rights of residents through local control and significantly increased the property values of these homes. The unacceptable, revised bills will go back to committe tomorrow, Wednesday, February 24.

The Heritage Hill Association opposes the proposed bills.

The Heritage Hill Historic District was designated an historic district in 1971. It is the result of local property owners taking action to save their homes from the ‘urban renewal’ plans that threatened the existence of 75% of the homes and the neighborhood. The Heritage Hill Association, which represents these neighbors has long been committed to working collaboratively with its elected local and state officials as well as the City of Grand Rapids in order to protect the personal rights of all our residents and property values of our local property owners.

The Heritage Hill Association, which represents one of the oldest and largest historic districts in the state of Michigan, was not consulted in the formulation of this bill and we wonder what historic preservation organizations were consulted. This bill is being moved so quickly, there has been no opportunity to learn more about the concerns the bill sponsors say they are responding to.

"I can't believe that anyone with a sense of right from wrong can go along with this bill. I've lived and owned a home in Heritage Hill historic district since 1973, when conditions of the homes and the lack of protections for them was at its lowest. Through time, passion and very hard work of neighbors like myself, we not only protected our investments but dramatically increased the value of your downtown neighborhoods. We were able to keep slumlords from abusing the homes and ruining the structures and preserving the structural integrity by not allowing absentee landlords to ignore the necessary appropriate repairs and maintenance that every home needs. Without the protection of Historic preservation at a local level where there are feet on the ground and community understanding of the nature of every historic district, it would be impossible to have accomplished what we as a neighborhood have done to not only Heritage Hill, but all our historic districts. We have revitalized entire downtown neighborhoods with local businesses and a strong owner occupied status," says our neighbor, Patricia Jaime Misner.
We believe that HB5232 & SB720 jeopardize property owners’ investments in historic districts by subjecting districts to a citywide renewal vote every 10 years. This would allow the vote of residents outside of a historic district to determine if that district would be allowed to continue to exist. This provision actually takes away local control – control by neighborhood residents that these historic districts have always enjoyed.
"Decades before the current, popular demand for urban living, Michigan's designated historic districts were demonstrating the viability of live-able, market-rate, urban neighborhoods, reversing blight, increasing municipal tax revenues and reducing public service expenses," say Heritage Hill residents, Sharon and Ben VanderWilp. "Their success has been priming today's urban lifestyle market for 45 years, which market,
in a most ironic turn, is now attracting the very real estate developers who would see the Local Historic Districts Act neutralized. The families and individuals who own, work and live in our state's historic properties have invested disproportionately and, we dare say, often sacrificially, of their time and treasure in order to preserve these properties and the historic districts in which they are located. They understand that, in the greater scheme of things, their role is less that of owner than custodian of a living history to be preserved for all posterity. As such, these exceptional neighbors deserve no less than the protections afforded by the Local Historic Districts Act in its current form. Any attempt to dilute the Act's standards, policies and procedures will unilaterally break the compact between these property owners and their communities and jeopardize millions, if not billions, of dollars of personal investment statewide," 

There are other significant issues with this bill that are cause for alarm. Both proposed bills are being tweaked but as of today, much of the original language is still contained in the rewritten bills. If these bills move forward in their current form, the protection of our State’s historic resources and treasures will be seriously compromised. Please join us in our opposition to these bills. Please call and/or email local representatives.

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