Members of Forest Park’s Historic Preservation Committee appeared before village council Monday night with a PowerPoint presentation intended to explain the historic preservation ordinance it first presented to the council in June.
The proposed ordinance would establish a village commission to which residents could appeal to have their homes designated as historic landmarks. The commission would also hear requests to have areas of the village designated as historic districts.
“There are certain areas in town where we have beautiful old homes next to beautiful old homes,” said committee chair Paul Barbahen. “With teardowns coming to town, something needs to be done to preserve these areas.”
Committee member Kim Zandstra said that the ordinance would make Forest Park “a more pleasant place to live and work” by preserving its historic and architectural character and heritage.
According to Zandstra, there are 311 properties in Forest Park built prior to 1900 and 1,037 built prior to the 1920s. Many of these homes, including the town’s oldest house, built in 1867, have been covered by siding and other additions that have hidden their original character.
Other benefits of the ordinance, she said, include stabilization and increases in property values, increased tourism, and “pride of ownership” among homeowners. The village, she said, could also apply to be designated a Certified Local Government (CLG), allowing it to apply for state funds earmarked for promotional materials for historical tours.
The ordinance, she said, could also help create jobs as property owners embark on rehabilitation projects. The city of Philadelphia, she said, saw 55,000 new jobs created over a 20-year period as a result of 874 certified rehabilitation projects.
Zandstra, who recently restored her home to its former glory by stripping away layers of siding, noted that “just with the project I did on my house I kept a lot of people employed for about two years.”
Barbahen attempted to reassure the commissioners that the ordinance is not overly burdensome, noting that though a home can be nominated for a landmark designation by a neighbor, it cannot actually be given the designation unless the owner applies to the historic preservation commission.
Those wishing to apply for state and federal grants to fund their restoration projects would need to research and apply for the grants on their own, with the historic designation merely serving as a rubber stamp.
In order to apply for an area to be designated a historic district, 25 percent of the area’s residents must approve of the designation, and for the designation to be approved, it must be desired by over 50 percent of area residents.
Those living in historic districts would be free to do as they pleased with the interior of their homes, though exterior renovations or additions would have to fit the character of the area. Homeowners who cannot afford to renovate their homes in such a way could apply for a certificate of economic hardship which would exempt them from the requirement.
Homeowners living in historic districts would not be obligated to renovate their homes in any way, but those wishing to make changes would have to apply to the historic preservation commission for a certificate of approval.
The commission will work with homeowners to bring their renovation plans into compliance, but if the homeowner is still unable to comply, it will recommend that the village council denies approval.
The authority to make final decisions regarding historic designations and renovations in historic districts would reside with the village council. Commissioners agreed to review the ordinance before the next council meeting, at which time they will either vote on the ordinance or discuss it further.
to proceed without price cap
Following a closed-session meeting lasting nearly 40 minutes, the commissioners voted 4-0 with Patrick Doolin abstaining to allow investigator Robert Johnson to continue his investigation of Lt. Steve Johnsen of the Forest Park Police Department.
Johnson was hired on Oct. 24 at a rate of $100 per hour to investigate a false arrest complaint filed by Doc Ryan’s owner, Jim Shaw, who was arrested following a verbal altercation with Commissioner Patrick Doolin after a July 25 council meeting.
Johnsen was the watch commander on duty at the time of the arrest.
Johnson was originally given a $1,000 cap for his investigation, but has already exceeded that mark, according to Commissioner Theresa Steinbach. Steinbach said that the investigation would now proceed without a price cap, though she said Mayor Anthony Calderone projected the cost at about $6,000 during the closed-session meeting.
Steinbach said she had not seen a copy of Shaw’s false arrest report and did not know what specific allegations are being investigated. The village denied a Freedom of Information Act request from the Review for the report.