City takes preliminary look at historical landmarks and preservation

Oneonta City Councilman Richard Phillips chaired an informational session on the possibility of the city’s establishing its own preservation commission. Councilors and attendees had several questions for Phillips, some of which he admitted he could not answer.

Several expressed concerns that any commission or building designation not interfere with traditional property rights of owners. Real estate agent Barbara Andersen opined that in some places, historical efforts seem to have a restrictive “can’t do” approach while others seek to help. She indicated she felt Oneonta would prove more suited for the latter.

Councilor Hal Blackwood asked of enforcement. Phillips explained his understanding that any limitations or designations by a commission could be appealed to the city council and even to circuit court for final resolution.

City manager-economic development officer Ed Lowe asked if building inspection would be tasked with enforcement. Phillips held he envisioned the commission or committee as assuming that role.

Several asked would designations be by individual structures or by districts. Again, Phillips could not give a definitive answer, noting that both exist in participating communities. Others asked would a designation offer increased property values or make grants available for renovation work. Phillips suggested neither of the options would necessarily follow a designation.

When asked by councilor Danny Robinson, “What’s next?” Phillips returned the query with, “I don’t know. What do you think?”

That exchange led to what appeared a consensus that other meetings, specifically designed to elicit more responses, should follow. Several pressed that supporters of the possible establishment should visit cities which already have such programs and prepare answers for questions already posed and still unasked. The approximately 30-minute meeting began at 6 p.m. after the city council’s regular session last week.