In the Eureka Springs Independent (ESi) recently, ESi Writer Becky Gillette wrote a compelling front page article (September 2, 2020, Vol. 9 No. 10) that has been ruminating in my mind ever since I first read it. She titled the article, HDC in the hands of the voters.
The HDC is the Historic District Commission in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
As Gillette eloquently explained, the HDC regulates exterior changes to buildings in most of the city, including newer areas where property owners are sometimes unaware they are in the Historic District. Permits for modifications like replacing windows, adding fences, building additions, and other types of modifications must be approved. Certificate of Approval (COA) permits are also needed for new construction.
Preserving love for one
In the case presented in Gillette's article, it's evident that Mr. Minze loves his new windows and he wants them all at one level. He decided to change the placement of one of the four windows facing Mountain Street as that one window was previously lower than the others, and Minze raised it to line-up evenly. This prompted a stop work order (SWO) issued by the city as the city disagreed with his claims to have a permit to do this.
Mr. Minze, I am truly sorry that you are upset about your unlevel windows. This blog-post is not about you, specifically, it's about my beloved unlevel Eureka Springs, for which I have dedicated this entire blog since it's inception in 2018.
I wish you well in the pursuit of a resolution, but please don't push for the removal of the decision-making body that focuses on the preservation of what everyone loves (a.k.a. love for all) about Eureka Springs. Push forward to get your own unlevel windows resolved.
I must admit, in the spirit of love for all, I am concerned for this decision-making body (the HDC) because if it is dissolved, so too goes our beloved historic district, the funding, the partnerships, the revenues, and eventually, the charm.
Eureka Springs will, in a sense, be leveled.
These decisions, from the HDC, come from a central source - to preserve what residents and visitors love about our beautiful and beloved wonky, unlevel Eureka Springs and to preserve what everyone loves about Eureka Springs - the rich history.
I imagine that most of our residents, certainly those that reside within the historic district, have had some interactions with the HDC at one time or another, albeit favorable or unfavorable.
The Rolling Stones taught us years ago, "you can't always get what you want."
Taking into account the big picture, a commission such as this is vital to a community such as ours in order to prevent changes in the preservation of the historic fabric and economic prosperity. But what does that mean, and what does that entail? How do we go about keeping the HDC?
I have two answers:
(1) Seek to understand!
First let's try to understand
Please allow me to share my objective viewpoint in the hope of shedding some light (&❤️) on this dilemma, in true iloveureka fashion.
“They have no concern for the cost to the homeowners, in my opinion,” Minze said. “In a nutshell, the HDC treats the town as if it were a fiefdom and the property owners are the serfs. The HDC has cost property owners hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years with misinformation and misrepresentation.”
This statement befuddles me. As I read it, I also can't help but hear high emotions in the words.
In Corporate Human Resources (my line of work) when someone brings a problem/grievance/complaint to my attention, I find that it's highly effective to manage actions forward as it relates to the person first.
How does this impact you, Mr. Minze?
What has this done to you, Mr. Minze?
How do you feel about this, Mr. Minze?
What are your expectations for your home, Mr. Minze?
What do you want to happen for you, Mr. Minze?
This statement/situation quickly went from, I'm personally upset to all the serfs in the entire fiefdom are upset and I'm getting as many signatures as possible to help me win and change this for everyone (including me.)
I do still wonder what the compelling (historic) reason was regarding this action on the part of the HDC. Let's face it, preserving love for all is a daunting task. Is the reason compelling enough to warrant all of these headaches, consequences and legal actions? I have trust that it must be otherwise the HDC would not keep up this conflict.
Preserving Love For All
The big picture here, in my opinion, is that the HDC is a committee that is responsible for preserving love for all. What that means to me is that the HDC is preserving what the residents love about Eureka and what the visitors love about Eureka.
This is quite a challenge.
It's widely known that future residents flock here because they fall in love with our quaint, historic charming homes and neighborhoods, and all there is to do, see and experience. Visitors flock here for the same reasons. "Historic Preservation Officer Glenna Booth says that dissolving the HDC would be harmful to the city, including making it not possible for property owners to apply for historic preservation grants." In addition, she disagrees with Minze when he stated that "...voting for his petition to dissolve the commission would not dissolve the Historic District."
It WILL dissolve the Historic District and here's why:
"...it is not possible to have a local ordinance (Section 2.64 of Eureka Springs Municipal Code) historic district without an HDC to review applications as the decision-making body under the Arkansas Historic Districts Act. It might be possible to repeal the local ordinance historic district and enact a new zoning design overlay that regulated some aspects of design related to historic character, but that would not include demolition. Also, there would have to be legislation of very detailed rules to apply to the staff level or create another commission. This would not qualify Eureka Springs for a Certified Local Government (CLG) designation.”
Booth further stated, "...studies in Arkansas and across the country have consistently shown there are striking differences over time in housing and historic building retention, rates of demolition, property values, vacant buildings, and small business development inside and outside areas (sometimes literally across the street) protected by historic district review boards in favor of the regulated districts."
I'm a Capricorn (a Happy Cappy, actually) and Cappy's are rule-followers which is likely why I work well in Corporate Human Resources and why I was AOK to live in a town with HDC rules for all to abide by in order to preserve love for all.
Personally, it's not everyone for human energy to seek to abolish something that unfavorably impacts others because one home is not approved and is upset about it.
If we, the people of Eureka Springs, do not elect to have a decision-making body in the coming election, the fate of Eureka is likely sealed . . ."heritage tourists, which form a large portion of Eureka Springs’ livelihood, regularly spend more and stay longer than other visitors,” Booth wrote. “The unique historic character of Eureka Springs is the lynchpin [sic] of its heritage tourism industry. Since Eureka Springs began our state and national partnerships in historic preservation in 1979, over $15.5 million has been received in grants and tax credits. This does not include the accompanying economic benefits of construction work, retail or heritage tourism jobs which, in turn, ripple out into the community.”
Let the sunshine in! ❤️