Don't Raze Me, Bro: Considering the Latest Ordinance Allowing for Historic Demolitions

Tomorrow morning, the Dallas City Attorney's Office will present yet another version of its ordinance that would allow for the demolition of buildings in historically designated districts. Surely you know what this is all about -- we've been down this road since, oh, August 4, 2008, when the the city council's Public Safety Committee was first briefed on the subject of making it easier to take the wrecking ball to structures in historic districts deemed "an Imminent Threat to Health or Safety."

Since then there's been a deafening amount of back and forth from the City Attorney's Office, whose Chris Bowers insists the ordinance allows for ample time to find folks who'd be interested in buying and saving endangered residential and commercial structures, and preservationists, who damn the latest iteration of the proposal as way to skirt long-standing city policies that keep what little history Dallas has left standing.

The latest version of the ordinance is, as always, after the jump and ready for your perusal. Today, I've also spoken to folks who've read it -- and to the man responsible, in part, for its creation.

Says Neil Emmons, the city plan commissioner who's taken an active interest in this process, "This ordinance is a license to demolish any historic structure with the collusion of the property owner." Preservation Dallas co-founder Virginia McAlester fears the ordinance usurps the city's own rules that penalize property owners for allowing demolition by neglect, defined as "neglect in the maintenance of a structure that results in deterioration of the structure and threatens preservation of the structure."

"Our landmark ordinance was strengthened when demolition by negect was put in," McAlester says. "At what point does it flip from demolition by neglect to, 'You're not keeping your building up, so let's tear it down'?"

Chris Bowers responds: "I consider myself a friend of Virgina's, but I respectfully have to disagree. Demolition by neglect is a process the Landmark Commission and its staff can use to elevate the code violations on a property and try, through public pressure and public hearings, to persuade an owner to repair a property. There is nothing here that prevents the Landmark Commission from using demolition by neglect more often -- and, frankly, I wish they would. But the procedure is not often used, and so what has happened is some structures have deteriorated to the point where they become urban nuisances and blights on their neighborhood, which is what this is aimed at."

I've have more from Bowers in the morning, before the City Plan Commission meeting -- I know, you can't wait. Till then, then, the latest version of the demolition ordinance.
Latest Version of Ordinance Allowing for Demolition of Historic Structures

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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