Yesterday Swamplot reported that planning director Marlene Gafrick had signaled to city council that 5 of the 7 historic districts being “reconsidered” had not met the threshold that would have triggered dissolving them (the return of surveys representing owners of 51 percent of the properties in a district). The survey processes in the 2 remaining districts, Norhill and First Montrose Commons, are a little behind the others: Neighborhood meetings required by the revised preservation ordinance have been scheduled, but owners there haven’t received their survey forms yet.
But even if those last 2 districts don’t make the 51 percent cut either, the process spelled out by the new ordinance won’t come to an immediate halt. Once the votes have been tallied for all 7 districts, Gafrick will be required to send a report to city council recommending one of 3 options for each of them. For Heights East, Heights West, Heights South, Boulevard Oaks, and Avondale West, the first option — dissolving the district entirely — is out. But Gafrick can still recommend adjusting the boundaries of a district — even if the returned surveys didn’t reach the 51 percent threshold. (Her third option: recommend city council do nothing — and keep the district as it is.)
In an email to Swamplot today, planning department public affairs director Suzy Hartgrove says Gafrick plans to look carefully at where the surveys came from: “What we are in the middle of now is really evaluating the data received, mapping it and coming up with that recommendation,” she writes. Since those surveys will likely become available to anyone making an open-records request, locating concentrations of owners who want out of their districts sounds like a good idea. Though the ordinance allows Gafrick to come to her own conclusions, she won’t be making the final decision, Hartgrove notes:
Ultimately, it is [up to] the Mayor and Council to make the decision. They don’t have to take our recommendation. I don’t have the date of when these items will go to Council.
Note: Last November, Swamplot reported that it appeared the city had received enough signatures (from owners of 10 percent of the properties) to trigger the “reconsideration” provisions specified by the revised preservation ordinance in 8 districts. How did that number drop to 7? A source in the mayor’s office tells Swamplot that after the signatures were verified, the Westmoreland petition no longer made the cut.