Orenstein attempts to break deadlock on historic district Compromise proposal calls for advisory panel

September 13, 1992|By Donna E. Boller JTC | Donna E. Boller JTC,Staff Writer

Westminster Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein plans to introduce a compromise proposal for historic district zoning at tomorrow night's City Council meeting in an effort to break a deadlock on the issue.

Council members endorsed the concept of historic preservation at a discussion session last week.

But they split 2-2 on making preservation mandatory by establishing a commission to rule on changes to building exteriors.

The council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. in the Westminster Fire Hall on East Main Street.

Ms. Orenstein argued forcefully for stronger historic district legislation at last week's session.

"All zoning is law," she said. If individual property rights are the overriding concern, she said, "We could disband the Planning and Zoning Commission; we could disband the Zoning Appeals Board."

The resolution she plans to introduce tomorrow night puts the council on record in favor of preservation but without any enforcement powers. It would create an advisory commission to review building permit applications and issue non-binding recommendations.

Ms. Orenstein said she drafted the resolution after it became clear that a study commission's proposal to establish a one-half-square-mile historic district in downtown Westminster could not win a majority vote on the council.

Council members Kenneth A. Yowan and Stephen R. Chapin Sr. opposed the historic zoning. Ms. Orenstein and Councilman Edward S. Calwell supported it.

The deadlock would have given the tie-breaking vote to Council President William F. Haifley, who declined last week to say how he would vote. However, he submitted a letter of opposition to the historic district during the public comment process.

Mr. Haifley's letter said Westminster residents have "accomplished a continuing program of preserving and maintaining the structures' historic and architectural value without governmental inducements or mandates and we do not need or want governmental interference in the future."

Mr. Yowan said Thursday that he had not changed his position after the discussion session.

"I'm afraid we might drive out some businesses," Mr. Yowan said. "I'm in a quandary. I want to preserve the historic nature of the city, but I'm concerned about the mandatory [aspect]."

Union National Bank President Joseph H. Beaver Jr. testified at the council's public hearing last month that if the bank expanded its Main Street offices, it might be necessary to demolish some buildings.

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