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Thread: Wrangling with the historic preservation commission

  1. #1
    Member hindered's avatar
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    Wrangling with the historic preservation commission

    I was recently designated the staff liaison for the HPC after a 5+ year staff absence from participating due to some fighting among personalities over the City's demolition of a structure. There is mistrust and negativity beneath the surface between the HPC and my department as a result of this argument. I'm technically not supposed to devote much time or effort to the HPC beyond token contact; which I interpret as allowing them to fail. On the other hand, the HPC is completely unrealistic and into feeling good about their passion for their "cause" without doing any real work themselves, blaming the City, and refusing to understand that the City's #1 goal isn't to save every structure. I am caught in the middle and fear that staff will once again be pulled from the HPC. There are legitimate concerns on both sides, but neither can see the other's point of view.

    I'm looking for your experiences. If you deal with your own HPC, how do you balance their wants with your department's needs when they are in conflict? I'm thinking that completing a Hist Pres Plan might help get everyone on the same page and show how the pieces can fit together. Anyone done that? Are they really useful to you? How much do they cost to hire out?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    You are not "the City". Individually get with the members over coffee to explain that you did not demolish the structure, that one facet of your job is to help the board, and that you sincerely want to help. If they cannot get over this issue, the heck with them. No one "wins" all the time. But it should be your task to try to help them get over it.

  3. #3
    Member hindered's avatar
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    Taking more control in a faciliatory tone would be my preferred action, too. I just don't know how to handle a boss with no appreciation for the body and no willingness to let me get beyond dipping my toe in the situation. I just keep thinking if I had more information, and a well thought out approach, I might be able to convince him otherwise.

  4. #4
         
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    Quote Originally posted by hindered View post
    On the other hand, the HPC is completely unrealistic and into feeling good about their passion for their "cause" without doing any real work themselves, blaming the City, and refusing to understand that the City's #1 goal isn't to save every structure.
    To be quite honest, it seems that your boss shows a lack of respect for the HPC because of this very attitude that they have. You need to make it clear to them that they need to get their priorities in order and choose their battles, or they will have no chance finding sympathy.

    If the HPC is acting irrationally about preserving every structure, then they obviously have strong opinions about the character of the municipality. They will likely dismiss any preservation plan prepared by hired consultants, because the consultants themselves won't be local. They need to either make priorities and get something preserved, or stay with the status quo and get nothing preserved. Quite frankly, it's up to them exclusively.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by hindered View post
    I just don't know how to handle a boss with no appreciation for the body and no willingness to let me get beyond dipping my toe in the situation.
    Once you've sat down at least with the Chair of the HPC, and a few other members recommended by the chair, you'll probably have a little better grasp of what and how they think, beyond just "they want to preserve everything". (Not an unusual attitude, I'll note, but there are certainly nuances to it.) At that point, perhaps you can figure out how to pitch more proactive involvement to your boss.

    What's the track record of this HPC? Have they got any successes? Do you have a local historic district? Or have they, in the past, just been into opposing demolitions?

    How do the elected types feel about preservation? Is it a high priority for your community? A middling priority? Not even on the radar?

    If the HPC is low on successes, but preservation is a decent priority, there might be an opportunity for you (and your boss) to come out minor heroes on this. . . assuming the Chair is somebody you can work with.

    An HP Plan would probably be a goodness - force the HPC to consider some amount of prioritization of their desires, and forcing them to articulate some goals.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Scary.... are you in my office? sounds exactly the same as is going on here.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

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