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Victoria council moves step closer to 60-day moratorium on demolition of historic buildings

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
Oct. 5, 2010 at 5:05 a.m.


Victoria moved a step closer saving some of its history.

On Tuesday, the city council approved the first reading of an ordinance that provides a 60-day moratorium on demolition of structures located in one of the city's three historic districts and constructed before 1950.

During a public hearing prior to council vote, Matt Ocker expressed concern about the ordinance.

"Invariably, anytime we talk about what people can or cannot do with their own property my antennae start to go up," he said.

"I think sometimes we get carried away with this historical stuff. Just because something is old, is it historical? In this particular ordinance, are we making this determination?" Ocker asked. "I'd ask that you'd take these things into consideration."

Gary Dunnam, executive director of Victoria Preservation, spoke in favor of the ordinance, also noting that the list of buildings recommended for demolition contains structures that aren't worthy of saving even though they may be 50 years old or older.

"Not everything old needs to be saved," he said. "But our historic district contains a wealth of historic homes. They are part of our history and have a value to our community."

"The 60-day moratorium will give us time to evaluate a structure and see whether or not it should be saved," Dunnam said.

Dunnam said more than 100 structures in Victoria are listed on the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Register of Historic Places.

"It is these types of houses that tourists come to Victoria to see," Dunnam said.

Councilwoman Denise Rangel, who proposed the ordinance, also recommended an amendment to strike the word "relocation" from the ordinance and have it apply to demolition only. The amendment was also approved.

The ordinance "is not intended to permanently prevent demolition, but rather to provide an opportunity to develop alternatives that preserve the historical significance and existing neighborhood character for historic properties," according to the ordinance.

The ordinance also allows demolition to proceed without delay "when it is determined necessary to protect the public safety or welfare."

The ordinance must be read a second time, which also serves as a third reading, and approved again before it goes into effect.

"This ordinance is much needed, and I don't believe the minor delay is a burden," said Councilman Tom Halepaska. "On balance, you have the ability to save the heart of our city."

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