Historic Preservation Commission finally views bylaws
Original operating document surfaces in time for review and modernization
The Cheney Historical Preservation Commission’s first meeting of 2014 featured a look at what might be considered a historical document – one most, if not all, of the members had never seen before.
The commission is beginning the year with a review and update of its “Rules and Procedures for Meetings.” The 50-page document is essentially the commission’s bylaws, established when it was first set up by ordinance in 1988.
The commission’s administrative secretary, Sue Beeman, said the procedures document didn’t even exist in electronic form until a few years ago when she was able to input it into the city’s system from a hard copy.
“A former member brought in a box and said ‘here, you might need this,’” Beeman said regarding how the document’s existence came to be known.
Commission chair Bettye Hull pointed to several sections of the document she felt needed to be replaced after only a preliminary read through. Besides a section on the make up of the commission and how it should run, there are also sections on rules and procedures for getting a building onto the National Registry of Historic Places, Cheney’s own registry and how to conduct reviews and apply standards, including standards established by the federal government.
“One thing is this includes the Secretary of Interior standards and those do not need to be in our bylaws,” Hull said.
She also pointed to terms set for commissioners as well as those elected chair and vice chair. Hull said in her case she was probably “illegal” under the procedures because she has served more than the two consecutive one-year terms as chair stipulated by the bylaws.
Hull also questioned why the City Council needed to approve adding a building to the registry as part of the process when the Historical Preservation Commission members were essentially the “experts” on the ins and outs of the process and why a building was important from a historical perspective. Commissioner Charles Mutschler said he believed the council’s role is mainly because ultimately they are the ones responsible to the public.
“The reason it’s (final registry decision) is at the City Council level is because your local representatives are making a decision that could affect tax dollars,” Beeman added. She also explained that individuals who develop historical buildings sometimes can qualify to have some of their property taxes “forgiven” and assessed at a lower rate, which would in turn possibly raise rates on the rest of taxpayers to make up the lost revenue.
Hull said that information was something the commission needed to know. Commissioners did approve a couple changes to the document last Thursday, adjusting the term lengths of the seven members to three years instead of three for two years, two for three years and two for four years while also changing the chair’s term to three years instead of one.
Public Works and Planning Department Director Todd Ableman said city staff would review the document and make recommendations to the commission for changes. The commissioners agreed to conduct their review over several meetings, which will now take place on a bi-monthly rather than monthly basis.
The commission also voted unanimously to elect Mutschler as the new chair, with Commissioner Scott Wilbanks to serve as vice-chair. The next Historical Preservation Commission meeting will be April 3.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.