By JORDYN GRZELEWSKI
The village of Poland has begun the process of adopting a historic preservation ordinance that would prevent residents whose homes were built before 1900 from demolishing or significantly altering their houses.
An ad hoc historic preservation committee convened last year to look into the issue, and the committee recently submitted its proposed historic preservation ordinance to the Poland Village Planning Commission.
“There’s a general sense that some historic properties are being neglected in a way that never happened before, and that as a community maybe we need to recommit to our traditional focus on preservation,” said Atty. J. Michael Thompson, chairman of the planning commission.
The proposed ordinance, on which the planning commission and village council will have to vote before further action is taken, would protect homes from certain changes to their exteriors.
“It would place limits on [homeowners’] rights to demolish or alter their homes. It would not affect the interior of homes in any way,” Thompson said.
The way the proposal is written now, the ordinance would apply to all homes built before 1900, which total more than 100. Many of these houses have historic plaques, and Thompson said, “Every house with a plaque would be affected.”
Areas of the village including South Main, College and Water streets have an especially large concentration of these historic homes, Thompson said, although these homes are scattered throughout the village.
He said many other villages in Northeast Ohio with similar historic significance have long had historic preservation ordinances, including Aurora, Chagrin Falls, Alliance, Medina, Hudson and Canfield.
“We looked at other ordinances in Ohio and came up with what we thought might be the best fit for a village like Poland, Ohio,” said David Smith, who was the chairman of the historic preservation committee.
“Here in Poland it’s just been voluntary all these years,” Thompson said.
Thompson said this approach has worked well for the most part, but in recent years an increasing number of historic homes have been neglected or damaged by their owners. He cited the demolition of a 192-year-old house on South Main as one example.
If the ordinance passes, a historic preservation board would oversee an inventory of all the historic homes and would have to approve any major renovations to them.
“We don’t mean to be overly strict or to dictate every change, just major changes would have to come to the historic preservation board,” Smith said.
Thompson said the process is still in its early stages, and the planning commission wants to have ample public discussion of the issue before anything is brought to a vote.
“If we’re going to do this, this is a major change to the zoning code. It cannot be done quickly, and it requires public input,” he said.
The planning commission will give residents the chance for discussion at its next three meetings, on the third Wednesday of each month this month, August and September, before it takes any additional action.
He said he expected a vote to take place at the end of the Sept. 17 meeting, at which point the proposal would be sent to village council for discussion if it is approved by the planning commission.
The next planning commission meeting will be at 7 p.m. July 16 at village hall.