Commissioners have approved a revised ordinance to regulate historic preservation in Butte, but bitter differences remain on how demolitions can be decided.
“There are those who believe we have the mindset that we save everything and there are those with the mindset that we destroy everything, and (after) two years, there’s still the same thing – rancor and the use of misinformation,” Commissioner Brendan McDonough said Thursday.
Changes to the county’s 2007 preservation ordinance have been discussed and debated for months and months, and there was agreement on most provisions in a revamped law commissioners approved Wednesday night.
Many changes simply clarified gray areas under the previous ordinance.
But the new version includes a provision – one that opponents had fought to keep out – that would allow the seven-member Historic Preservation Commission to approve bylaws that delegate various tasks to the county’s lone historic preservation officer. Those could include decisions on demolition matters.
Former Historic Preservation Officer Jim Jarvis, who left last month after five years on the job, wanted the preservation commission to let him approve demolitions of some non-historic buildings outside of Butte’s historical district boundaries.
Jarvis said those primary structures are often ordinary houses or structures with generic designs built in the 1950s or 1960s that are deteriorating.
But some preservation advocates opposed that, saying it would give the preservation officer unilateral authority to have houses or buildings torn down without public input and jeopardize some historic buildings.