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Janesville City Council sends ordinance back

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
August 9, 2011
— The Janesville Historic Commission made a temporary retreat Monday when it suggested a proposed downtown historic overlay ordinance go back to committee rather than risk having it changed or voted down.

Bruce Dennis, historic commission chairman, suggested the city's historic and plan commissions meet and hopefully iron out their differences.


The historic commission asked that an overlay district that exists in the Courthouse Hill Historic District be used downtown. The overlay allows the commission to deny exterior changes to buildings that require permits. It includes an appeal process that sends property owners to the plan commission and then to the city council.


The plan commission suggested the historic commission be asked to review exterior work but not have the power to deny it.


The goal of an overlay district is to preserve and protect an area's historic architectural elements. It assures all property owners within the district that others will protect their properties, proponents say.


James Dumke, commission member, said some property owners talk about the ordinance taking away their rights.


"This council regulates the use of property constantly" through zoning and other regulations, he said.


Rich Fletcher, a former historic commission member, said those who buy historic buildings must be stewards for them. He said it was a "deplorable act for the owners of 115 E. Court St. to demolish a historic building for no other reason than they feared a heavy hand of government."


Fletcher was referring to Terry Donaldson, Norm Weitzel and Fred Fox, who days ago tore down a historic building in anticipation the district ordinance would pass. Donaldson said he preferred the spot as a parking lot.


Nancy Johnson said the owners of the Brennan Steil law firm, 1 E. Milwaukee St., don't believe downtown property owners should have their rights "modified."


"This is a really bad economic time to be putting more restrictions on business owners," she said.


Other business

In other business Monday, the Janesville City Council:


-- Waived half the special event fees for Family Fun Fest, sponsored by Partners in Prevention.


The council just last year set policy requiring all organizations to pay fees except some specifically named in the policy. The council did so because more and more organizations asked the city to waive fees.


But the city must still pay the costs of equipment and labor, and waiving fees puts those costs on the backs of taxpayers. Now, the council appears to be going that route again, with the majority agreeing to waive an event fee of $120 and a $60 pavilion reservation fee. Partners in Prevention still must pay an equipment fee of $173.


Councilman Russ Steeber was the lone vote against waiving half of the fees and preferred instead to waive all of them.


-- Voted unanimously to allow Sneakers Sports Bar & Grill, 1221 Woodman Road, to install lights for outside volleyball. The council did, however, not approve a request to allow volleyball to be played until 10 p.m. Games will continue to be cut off at 9 p.m.


Several neighbors had complained because they worried about the lights and the disruption.



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