As Mayor Dave Cieslewicz calls for changes to the city's landmark ordinance, the Landmarks Commission that oversees enforcement is conducting its own review.
The commission thinks some changes are warranted, but it wants the ordinance strengthened, not weakened.
For instance, the mayor wants to eliminate the requirement that a super-majority of the Common Council is needed to overrule the commission. But a recent report from the City Attorney's Office found that super-majorities are needed to overrule many other city bodies.
"Given the number of other commissions that require super-majorities," says commission member Stu Levitan, "We don't think there's any justification for changing that."
Levitan balks at the suggestion of making Landmarks an advisory board, whose every action would need council ratification. "Is someone serious about every certificate of approval going to the council?" he says. "Every time someone wants to put on new shutters or a porch, it has to go to council? And that's development-friendly?"
But Levitan agrees the ordinance could benefit from some tightening and clarification. "There are definitional ambiguities and procedural inconsistencies within the ordinance itself," he says. "How and why a variance could be issued and what the basis of an appeal could be." The recommendations should be completed later this summer.
Amy Scanlon, the city's new preservation planner, doesn't yet have an opinion on the super-majority issue. But she says that while the landmarks ordinance could use some revisions, it is generally good.
"The ordinance is in place to protect us from ourselves," she says. "I'm a purist. I'm not going to go backwards, I'm only going to go forwards. I don't see a need to make significant changes."