Proposed fees for recommending properties as Rochester landmarks were met with objection Tuesday.
“We don’t want to be known as the most expensive place to landmark a building in the United States, or anything close to it,” said Barry Skolnick, a member of the city's Heritage Preservation Commission.
He pointed to information from the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office indicating that fees for such nominations are not commonplace.
The commission voted 8-1 to recommend that the Rochester City Council set the fee required by the city’s heritage preservation ordinance at zero dollars to allow for further review.
The City Council asked for the commission’s input on a proposal to charge a $100 fee for property owners to nominate their properties as landmarks and $300 for a non-owner to nominate a property.
The fees also would require a $1,500 refundable deposit, which could be tapped if the city needed to contract for research.
Commissioner Adaheid Mestad questioned whether the fee was warranted based on past activity.
Since 2017, only two properties have been nominated as potential landmarks by Rochester residents.
In 2018, Tim Schmitt nominated his building, which houses Schmitt Auto Repair at 102 N. Broadway Ave., as a landmark.
More recently, Rochester resident Kevin Lund nominated the former Time Theatre building, which last housed Legends Bar and Grill, as a landmark. The nomination was submitted Feb. 5, after the City Council voted 4-3 last month to start the process toward demolition of the building at 11 Fourth St. SE.
The review of Lund’s nomination is slated to start with a Heritage Preservation Commission public hearing in March.
The city has 105 additional properties listed as potential landmarks identified by the commission, which will require potential research and review.
Last week, council members voiced concerns that ranged from burdening taxpayers with the cost of added research to deterring potential nominations by imposing the fees.
On Tuesday, the majority of commissioners voiced concerns about the latter.
“Any fees associated with this would be a deterrent,” said commission member Barb Hudson.
While supporting the proposal to not charge for a nomination, Commission Chairwoman Christine Schultze said the city’s ordinance already provides a path for recommending a landmark without a fee, even if one is enforced.
She said a Heritage Preservation Commission member or City Council member could be asked to start the process without a required fee, since the elected council and volunteer commission are not subject to fees.
“That’s what some communities do exclusively. They don’t permit direct nominations,” she said, also pointing out that the proposed fees differ when compared to other Community Development fees.
Molly Patterson-Lundgren, the city’s heritage preservation and urban design coordinator, added that fees can take different forms in other cities, pointing to the potential to charge for review of other activities related to historic properties.
The council is scheduled to revisit the proposed fees on Monday with the commission’s recommendation.