Vacancies on the Boise Historic Preservation Commission and more history than they can handle led to approval of five construction projects without public input in Boise’s North End.
Despite repeated assurances last June to the GUARDIAN from Mayor Dave Bieter’s office, one vacancy was not filled until November 1. The Commission simply failed to do its job considering construction within the North End Historic District and the projects were automatically approved.
One city employee said the inaction was due to a lack of quorum at an earlier meeting. Hard to get a quorum if you are short on members. The GUARDIAN has brought the issue to the attention of the City Planning Director as well as individual councilors and so far no action has been forthcoming.
In July Boise lost out on thousands of dollars in federal historic preservation funds when they failed or refused to respond to pleas from the Idaho Historic Preservation Office, the agency administering grants to cities. The state asked Boise to simply let them know if they wanted the money, but lost it due to a missed deadline. The GUARDIAN has the state documents in hand.
UPDATE STATEMENT FROM MAYOR’S OFFICE–
“The Historic Preservation Commission has faced some significant challenges in recent months, due to short-term staffing issues as well as increased workload as a result of the creation of three new historic districts, which roughly tripled the number of structures subject to historic preservation review by the City. The Mayor and City Council are working with Planning and Development Services to address these challenges and ensure that the process works well for all involved.
The previous vacancy on the commission was filled by the appointment of Betsy McFadden, approved by the City Council on Nov. 1. The current vacancy occurred last month when commissioner Mark Baltes informed the Mayor of his decision not to seek reappointment. The Mayor is currently interviewing candidates for that seat.”
The GUARDIAN can’t help but wonder why the city has three new historic districts and triple the structures subject to review when they haven’t the staff or the will to do the job. Why create historic districts if you can’t handle the job? It may be inappropriate to classify some areas as historic and a more liberal “Cultural District” might be in order.
The council needs to take some action pronto.
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