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Janesville's historic commission makes bid for final say

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
January 27, 2010
— An ordinance to give more power to Janesville’s historic commission is advancing to the city council.

Residents in historic overlay districts must come before the commission for approval of exterior work that requires permits.


The commission can delay the permit for six months, during which time it is hoped the homeowner and commission agree on what work should be done. If no agreement is reached after six months, the resident can do whatever he or she wants.


If the ordinance is changed, the commission would have final say, although homeowners could appeal to the city council.


Work that requires permits in overlay districts includes replacing windows, fencing, siding or demolition. It does not include paint color.


The commission Monday decided removing architectural details should require a permit, too.


Overlay districts cover the Courthouse Hill Historic District and several individual properties around Janesville.


At Monday’s meeting, Christine Moore of the Janesville Design & Development Center asked the commission to continue its work to make the downtown historic district an overlay district.


The commission has hosted two information meetings for residents of the overlay districts. The majority who attended appeared to favor the change.


The ordinance change might be introduced to the council in March and then advance to the plan commission for a public hearing. A second public hearing will be held before the council.


Rich Fletcher, chairman of the historic commission, said the change is important because it would guarantee people wouldn’t make poor decisions that impact historical properties.


“Look at the Lovejoy house, what he did with that,” Fletcher said.


Owner Brad Goodrich removed architectural details and applied a concrete-like surface to the historic house at 220 St. Lawrence Ave. He did that without going before the commission. He has been cited for removing a porch, also without going before the commission. The property now is in foreclosure.


“We’re trying to prevent that,” Fletcher said. “That’s not what most people want.”


Most people in the past have worked well with the commission, Fletcher said. It has issued 126 certificates of appropriateness since 1990, and four have been denied.


One of the four appealed the decision to the plan commission, which attached conditions to the project. Another owner demolished the garage after the six-month period. Two did not move ahead with plans to install vinyl and aluminum siding.


The proposed ordinance is similar to ordinances in many other cities, Fletcher said.



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