Imagine that you are a homeowner that wants to paint your house, replace old shrubs, place new shingles on the roof, replace some windows or a door, add on a room or buy a new garage door. You go through the onerous building permit process and then discover there is a new process that is ruled only by how people “feel”. You are told you must spend up to $1,000 to obtain a “Certificate of Appropriateness” for your new shingles to make sure they fit into your neighborhood which was just declared an “historic district”. You remember sending in a ballot stating you did not want your neighborhood to be a historic district, but most of your neighbors did not. In fact, it turns out that only 30 of the people that live in your neighborhood of 120 turned them in and of those 16 voted yes. Now you live in an historic district and everything you want to do to your house just got much more complicated, expensive and not in keeping with your own desires. Welcome to St. Petersburg 2015 – if you don’t act now.
What if 16 people in your neighborhood could stop you from painting your house? Sign the Petition to protect your property from “historic district” designation by a tiny group of neighbors.
Come to City Council August 20th, 175 5th St. N to say “no” to the new ordinance. (details below)
Current law in St. Petersburg states that to have your neighborhood declared an “Historic District” 2/3 of ALL property owners in the neighborhood must vote yes. That means that if 2/3 of the people don’t even send in a ballot, then there will be no “historic designation”. But the people trying to change the law are upset that such a high hurdle exists to interfere with the property rights of home owners. The new ordinance under consideration would allow a majority vote of ballots returned. That means, if only 30 people vote in your neighborhood of 120, only 16 of them can change the rules that affect your property. Heck, if only ten return the ballots, 6 could create and historic district! Oh yes, if you and your husband disagree on having your neighborhood be an “historic district”, your votes will be cancelled out and your ballots will not even count in the final tally (see page 5 of the City’s reference guide on historic districts).
What does it mean to live in a “Historic District”? You will need to send a check and a complex application to the “Community Preservation Commission” of the city. (see images of the application below). If you want to replace old shingles on your roof and put on some modern ones that will be a $300 application fee. Better not mess up the application and have to re-submit. That will be another $150. Then it will go in front of a committee. Of course to get in front of the commission, FIRST you must give $50 for Staff review, schedule a meeting with city staff and then you will be scheduled for commission review – if they aren’t too busy (they can’t hear more than 12 applications a month). You must also notify all property owners within 200 feet of your home and put up a sign saying what you are doing. Ultimately the commission decides if they like your shingles or if you should spend much more to have shingles they deem “appropriate” to your historic district. Navigating the arcana likely will require you to hire a lawyer – thousands of dollars. This law applies to replacing your shrubbery too.
If you alter your property without approval, you will have to pay the city the ENTIRE FAIR MARKET value of the home if you demolish or spend money to repair it as instructed. (see below)
Residents of Grenada Terrace in St. Pete (along Coffee Pot Boulevard in Old Northeast) recently decided they wanted out. They were declared “historic” 25 years ago. It turns out that the city is asking them to prove that their homes are no longer historic. The politics and bureaucracy will get thick – especially as un-elected city staffers whose jobs depend on adjudicating applications for homes with “historic district” designation will be deciding whether to let them out!
Citizens are coming together to stop this encroachment on property rights. Bob Griendling has created http://protectstpetepropertyrights.com/ and already has gathered 432 signatures on a petition to stop this change in the law. The petition can be signed here. Help Bob by spreading the word about the petition. Send an email to the city council at firstname.lastname@example.org and the Mayor at email@example.com to let them know your feelings on the subject. Plan to come out to the city council meeting on August 20th at St. Pete City hall to be heard and consider showing up at the “Public Services and Infrastructre Committee” meeting of City Council in room 100 of City hall this Thursday July 30 at 915 a.m.. City hall is at 175 5th st. N. Parking in the lot just north of City Hall is free during public hearings.
St. Pete City Code:
16.30.070.5. – Civil penalties.
16.70.060.3. – Certificate of appropriateness for historically designated property.
- Applicability. No person may undertake certain work, identified in the historic and archaeological preservation section, without having first obtained a certificate of appropriateness.
- Application. Applications for a certificate of appropriateness shall be submitted in a form promulgated by the POD.
- Procedures. Applications for certificate of appropriateness shall be processed in accordance with the historic and archaeological preservation section.