Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Battle Lines Drawn For Sailing Hall Of Fame, Possible Legal Challenges Await

When The Capital reported on the possible start of construction for the Sailing Hall Of Fame, it paid a paltry lip service to possible objections from the historic preservationists:
Local Historian Greg Stiverson questioned what would happen with the house,
which he said is an important part of the city's maritime history.
But, if Mr. Stiverson's letter to The Baltimore Sun is any indication, the HOF has an uphill battle:

The question is not whether the circa 1890 house at 69 Prince George St.
should be moved or demolished to make way for the Sailing Hall of Fame but
whether either scenario is legal under state and federal law.

The section of the SHOF's feasibility study that is most relevant is
the historical summary by R.C. Goodwin. This section highlights the fact that
the building on the site is listed as a "contributing resource" to the Annapolis
Historic District (1969), the Annapolis National Register Historic District
(1984), and the Colonial Annapolis National Historic Landmark District

The glory of Annapolis today is that a wide variety of buildings dating
from the 17th- through the mid-20th centuries, from humble to grand, have been
saved from willful destruction. All of these buildings -- not just the homes of
the wealthy -- make Annapolis a "museum without walls" that is unequaled in the
United States.

Changes to buildings within the Annapolis Historic District must
conform to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. These
standards have been adopted by the City of Annapolis and the Maryland Historical Trust.

Under these standards, removal or demolition of the building at 69
Prince George St. would have an "adverse effect" on both the historic building
and on the surrounding historic district.

It is the Maryland Historical Trust's responsibility to evaluate the value of the building at 69 Prince George St. and to decide whether it must be saved in place or whether it can be moved or demolished. Let us hope that the MHT is allowed to make its decision in a fair, equitable and transparent way, without undue political influence or favor.

The Mayor's actions have made her view on the matter clear. She pledged unbudgeted and unneeded money to the HOF, and will no doubt seek to impose her newest green building standards to the construction of the building. She seems unconcerned to lose a historic building, although admittedly and reportedly the existing building cannot be fitted for acceptable public use.

My only real concern with the HOF is that public money is not used to fund it. The developers claim that the site will 150,000 visitors per year, but I have to believe that the great majority of these people will be coming to Annapolis already, thus mitigating traffic/congestion concerns.

I also don't particularly care about the fate of the historic building, which is not to say that historic preservation is not a noble goal. The way to manage historic preservation is zoning requirements. Zone what you want, and let the private market adjust its pricing and strategy to adapt. If this doesn't work, as in the case of this building in question, the zoning should be changed, rather than public money spent to restore a property that the private market stays away from.

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