The Ad Hoc Landmarks Ordinance Review Committee (LORC), composed of Alders Bidar, Clear, King, Rummel, and Schmidt, has completed the “phase 1” rewrite of the Landmarks ordinance. It will be approved at the Common Council on July 21.

The Landmarks ordinance review process started four years ago to clarify and improve the ordinance. The Landmarks Commission spent the last 3 years crafting a draft. At the initiative of Alders Bidar, Zellers and myself we introduced a resolution in May 2014 to create LORC to review the procedures (phase 1) and the standards for each of the city’s five historic districts (phase 2). LORC spent the last year reviewing the procedural section of the ordinance and received testimony from preservationists, the development and business community, interested alders and others as we revised the ordinance.

The new ordinance will be housed in Chapter 41, instead of 33.19, to make it more findable. The major changes in the ordinance include a definitions section, an enhanced section on obligation to maintain historic resources and a clearer definition of demolition by neglect. Also new is a revised variance section that allows for economic hardship under certain conditions and the public interest. Finally the appeal section has been clarified and simplified. The Common Council can modify or reverse a Landmarks decision with a 2/3 vote if it finds the applicable standards were not applied correctly.

“Phase 2” will consist of rewriting the historic district standards for each of the five historic districts. This will include a public input process for each district. The process will start with the Landmarks Commission and then drafts will be reviewed by LORC. Phase 1 will become the primary procedural framework and will function along with the existing historic district standards. In cases of conflicts between the two there is a section that defines how those should be resolved.

Participation from the Madison Alliance for Historic Preservation, the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation, representatives of the development community, DMI, affected neighborhood associations and interested residents has resulted in an ordinance that incorporates best practices from around the country. It is the hope that this new ordinance will protect our historic assets for future generations and provide a regulatory framework that provides the certainty that current property owners have requested when they purchase or reinvest in historic properties.

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