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Rochester preservation commission requests change to ordinance

Concerned about historic Rochester structures that might become vulnerable to alteration or demolition, the city's Heritage Preservation Commission on Monday asked the Rochester City Council to amend the Heritage Preservation ordinance adopted in February.

After listening, the City Council voted unanimously to instruct the city attorney to change the language of the ordinance and bring it back at a later meeting for adoption.

Commission Chairman Jeff Allman told the council the 11-member commission, established in June, has been bogged down by the chores of getting set up and learning how to operate under the state's open meeting law.

After three meetings, the commission has failed to make headway on its initial task: to create a list of buildings and sites recommended for heritage preservation designation. Allman said he asked several members of the former Heritage Preservation Committee to provide the new commission, which replaced the committee, with a list the committee started compiling.

"I got whole city blocks ... It was just too many to vet in a reasonable way," he said.


Until the list is established, the ordinance needs a Band-Aid to protect structures that are on the National Register of Historic Places, so they can't be altered or razed without the commission having the opportunity to step in, Allman said.

The current language in the ordinance prohibits people from obtaining city demolition permits involving sites "which may be potentially designated as historic" without the commission first reviewing the applications and making recommendations to the City Council. It doesn't included language about exterior alterations of those sites.

Allman and the commission asked the council to amend the ordinance so permits for demolition or "exterior alteration" of any site "currently on the National Register of Historic Places" would have to be submitted to the commission.

Rochester has historic sites on the national register that are in danger today, Allman said. The Barnes and Noble book store in downtown Rochester, housed inside the Historic Chateau Theatre building, is for sale, Allman pointed out.

And, he said, "We would object to vinyl siding on the Plummer Building."

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