NORTH SIDE Residents fight historic district



The same discussion happened two years ago, but the issue was tabled.
By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The fight is on, again, over a historic designation for a North Side neighborhood and the restrictions it might put on property owners.
Youngstown State University officials made their case, city planning board members asked lots of questions and residents dueled Tuesday over the issue.
Expect more of the same in the coming months.
"It requires a lot of discussion," said Mayor George M. McKelvey, a planning board member.
The same discussion happened two years ago. Then, the planning board never acted because of residents' opposition. The issue never made it to city council, which has the final say.
Deferred decision
Tuesday, the planning board again deferred a decision over whether to recommend the move to city council. One of the four board members present is involved with a historic preservation board and would have abstained from any vote, so there was no quorum.
Norma Stefanik of YSU's Center for Urban and Regional Studies said she and supporters will be back to convince city officials the designation will benefit the neighborhood.
YSU officials are seeking to expand a historic district from the homes immediately surrounding Wick Park. The expansion would be east into the area generally bounded by Elm and Broadway streets and Madison and Wick avenues. Sections of affected streets include Florencedale, Kensington, Woodbine, Illinois and Indiana avenues; and Bryson and Baldwin streets.
The area already is on the National Register of Historic Homes, but the city hasn't yet designated the area as historic.
Permission for changes
The city designation would mean that property owners who want to make changes to their homes would have to run their ideas past the North Side Historic District Preservation Commission.
The commission works with people to maintain the historic character of the neighborhood when it's economically feasible, Stefanik said.
"No one can be made to do anything they can't afford," she said.
If the two sides can't agree on how to resolve a dispute, a property owner can appeal to the planning board.
YSU officials and a few residents in the area said such a process will encourage people to invest in their homes.
Hunter Morrison, director of the urban studies center, said historic districts prompt solid property owners to strengthen their commitment. Bad property owners tend to sell, he said. Those in the middle tend to make investments if they know their neighbors are, he said.
Tony Dommenick said he owns 17 North Side homes and is restoring them.
He moved here from Grand Rapids, Mich., and lived in a historic district for 10 years. There, he had no problem with government forcing people to do anything. Meanwhile, the value of his house rose from $32,000 to $87,000, he said.
Mayor's concern
McKelvey, however, said he doesn't want bureaucracy to prevent or push out new investment.
Several property owners in the neighborhood echoed his sentiments and said residents don't want the designation.
Felix Carbon said he owns seven properties in the area. State historic preservation has interfered with his attempts to renovate homes, he said. A historic designation would cause him to leave the city, Carbon said.
Dan Calko said he just bought a home in the area. He doesn't want a layer of bureaucracy between him and his renovation, he said.
Kenneth Krantz said he owns nine properties in the area. The intent may be good, but residents know little about the historic district and don't want it, he said.
rgsmith@vindy.com

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