Preservationists Join Forces To Lobby For Protection Of Historic Properties

Umbrella Organization Hopes There Will Be Strength In Unity

February 03, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

Historic preservationists, alarmed that most county land owners appear more interested in building something new than saving something old, met last week to consider forming an umbrella organization to lobby against the destruction of historic properties.

"Howard County could use all of your collective knowledge to make preservation better," Alice Ann Wetzel told a crowd of 36 individuals and representatives of preservation groups Tuesday night.

Wetzel, who works for the county government as a historic preservation planner, said she thought an organization comprising preservation group representatives, property owners and private citizens could quickly build the reputation necessary to influence public opinion.

The group would serve as an "umbrella organization to promote preservation on a broad level, promote historic preservation programs and ideas to state and county officials, and educate the citizens of Howard County about historic preservation and its benefits," Wetzel said.

Such a lobby would mean that a land owner who sought permission to tear down a historic structure would face opposition from "a lot more than one or two people," Wetzel said.

Wetzel also envisions theumbrella group as a liaison to the Maryland Historic Trust. She saidHoward is the only county in the state without a committee reportingto the Trust.

"My question to all of you is: Is this a good idea and worth pursuing?" Wetzel asked.

Most in attendance agreed that it was.

"It seems only logical that there is power in numbers," a supporter said.

But some feared that a large, politically powerfulorganization would take members away from their own groups. One person opposed the coalition idea on the ground that it had been tried before without success.

Proponents said that if such an organizationhad existed previously, the subdivision of Temora might not have occurred, and more people would have opposed plans by the South ColumbiaBaptist Church to tear down a 2 -story, mid-19th-century farmhouse to make room for a 260-seat, 11,400-square-foot church with a 25-footspire.

The Board of Appeals has yet to render a decision on the farmhouse case.

In 1984, the owners of Temora, a 133-year-old mansion on a 6.8-acre site near Columbia Road and St. John's Lane, began renovating the structure in hopes of converting it to a bed-and-breakfast.

After residents successfully opposed the plan, the owners sold the property to a developer. The new owner intends to subdivide theproperty and build 10 homes there that will resemble the mansion.

While preservation groups acting independently of each other simply didn't have enough clout to make a difference in the Temora case, an umbrella organization might have made a difference, proponents of theproposed alliance said.

The coalition would work with county government in an advocacy role and advise the county executive on preservation legislation, proponents stated. Wetzel said her purpose was simply to get the alliance idea off the ground: "I don't want this to bemy organization."

After the 1 -hour meeting, Wetzel said 18 to 21 people signed up to serve on committees involved in membership, organization, and the promotion of historic preservation.

No date wasset for a follow-up meeting.

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