Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tempe's historic-district debate gets referee

[Source: Katie Nelson, Arizona Republic] -- An outpouring of e-mails, letters, phone calls and office visits have been directed at Mark Vinson this fall and winter. Why? Vinson is refereeing an ongoing battle over whether to declare portions of the Maple-Ash neighborhood in downtown Tempe a "historic district." Normally Tempe's historical preservation officer would handle designation duties. But that person lives in the neighborhood. So as Tempe's city architect, Vinson, 52, got the job. Vinson was listed at the top of his field this year by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and has worked for the city for more than 20 years. He talked to The Republic about the dispute he described as one of the most volatile he's seen.

Why has this designation created such an uproar? There was little opposition to declaring three other Tempe neighborhoods historic.

The real root of it all is the underlying zoning. We have other historic districts, but they are all zoned for single-family districts. This is the one neighborhood that is different. Even though it has the character of a single-family neighborhood, it's all multifamily zoning. So you have folks who bought (property) for the single-family character, even though they might take advantage of the zoning by having rental units in the back (of their homes). Then you have people who want to take advantage of the multifamily zoning and make a profit that way.

Describe the supporters.

The supporters of designation, they believe the Maple-Ash neighborhood, it has a certain character that is beneficial as a community asset. . . . They realize there will be change, but by historic designation that the change will be guided as to how it will affect the character of the rest of the neighborhood.

And the opponents of the designation?

It would be easy for some to paint them with a broad brush and say they don't care about those issues. But I don't think that's true. Rather, their primary concern is the potential for eventual redevelopment. Some folks are opposed to the idea of any additional regulations and what they perceive as someone else having a say on what they do with their property. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]