(warning- long rant)
While I was loosing my mind week before last, so was Tampa’s city council. The difference is, I’ve finally come to grips with how I did, and how to prevent it, unfortunately, this council hasn’t. To be fair, two, Dingfelder and Saul-Sena, were opposed and clear thinking in how to handle the situation I’m referring to.
For those not familiar with Tampa, it’s a fairly “young”city, not really getting into the swing of things until the late 1880’s, and didn’t really hit it’s stride until just after the turn of the century. Which just happens to coincide with the boom of the cigar industry. Hence the nickname that still lingers for Tampa, “Cigar City”.
Fast forward to 2005. The city’s historic preservation council came to a consensus that there are 15 remaining factories that should be designated as historic buildings to maintain the heritage and fabric of the city. Sounds logical, no? Several of the buildings are boarded up, in some level of disrepair. Others are in use for some type of business, but aren’t necessarily in prime condition, while a scant few, from my understanding, have been rehabilitated, with every effort to maintain the historic nature of the building.
So, trying to make a long story short, (I watch probably 60% of the city council meetings, so I’ve caught most of the discussion) 5 of the factories decided they didn’t want to be a historic building, and are crying “property rights”. Boo Hoo. They knew what they were buying when they did. It’s not like they bought some building, and only after tearing off a more modern facade found they had the original five and dime in an old part of town. It’s a bloody 4 story brick building with the words “cigar factory” painted on the side.
So anyway, after much deliberation, and arguing, and posturing, the council majority decides these property owners should have the option to not be designated. That all property owners should have that option. Hmm.
“You own the oldest building in town, it’s historic, we are going to designate it.”
“ No I don’t. I say no.”
Makes sense to me. Not.
The kicker is, there is already an option to file for economic hardship, and prove that the designation would bring undue financial burdens on you. But these owners didn’t even want to bother. They simply wanted to strong arm the council into letting them have their way. The overall community voice at the meetings were in favor of a blanket designation. But because most of these council members are running for office outside the city council, they don’t want to be painted as “do-gooders” I guess, and alienate the developers that will float their campaign for county seats. So, despite the advice of their lawyer, and testimony of countless citizens and historic preservation experts, they’ve sent the item back to the legal department to draft a ordinance giving property owners the right to decide whether or not their building is historic or not. Hopefully, this will be pushed further than the 6 months they’ve set it aside, and a more sensible group of council members will realize that the historic nature of these buildings, and the fabric of the communities these buildings reside in, depend on their designation, and that the existing laws are sufficient to “protect” the owner.
For those in Tampa, please contact your council and tell them how much these buildings mean to the city. This is not an eminent domain issue. Nobody is taking the buildings away, we simply want to make sure that they are preserved in a matter than maintains the historic nature and keeps the craftsmanship and integrity of the building intact.
Even if you are not in Tampa, but respect the historic nature of such landmarks, feel free to contact them and express how historic buildings in your city are important.
(warning- long rant)