Monday, March 19, 2007

Arizona's new law complicates struggle to designate Tempe's oldest area

[Source: Margaret Foster, Preservation Online] -- The oldest surviving neighborhood in Tempe, Ariz., isn't an official historic district, and some neighbors have asked the city council to approve its designation before it's too late. Located between downtown Tempe and Arizona State University, the Maple-Ash neighborhood contains 240 houses, most of which were constructed between 1900 and 1940. "We have a tremendous amountt of development going on around us. We have probably eight high-rise projects within less than half a mile of us," says Jenny Lucier, a resident in favor of the designation. "Historic preservation hasn't been very popular here in Tempe."

If Maple-Ash is named a historic district, owners would have to wait six months to demolish a historic structure and also ask the city's historic-preservation commission to approve exterior changes to houses, according to the city's ordinance. Lucier and others in favor of the designation may hit a stumbling block this month, when the state's new Proposition 207 goes into effect. Modeled after Oregon's controversial property-rights law Measure 37, which critics say will encourage development, the law allows property owners to seek compensation from the state for any reduction in their right to use, divide, sell, or possess their property caused by the passage of any land-use law. Those land-use laws include historic districts. Last month, in response to "Prop 207," the League of Arizona Cities and Towns issued a report that recommends governments to require 100 percent support before designating a historic area.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Jenny Lucier.]