State College Borough Council voted Monday night to pass an ordinance to establish a Historical and Architectural Review Board.
The vote was 6-1 in favor, with Councilman Evan Myers voting against it.
The ordinance, after going through a state certification process, will create two local historic districts and appoint a HARB to give recommendations to Borough Council regarding the granting or refusal of certificates of appropriateness for full and partial demolitions and additions to contributing properties within the districts and any new constructions within the boundaries of the districts.
The historic districts would be made up of Holmes-Foster/Highlands and College Heights neighborhoods. Contributing properties — ones that need to be reviewed by the HARB — are listed on the borough’s draft HARB boundary maps. There are 706 contributing parcels in Holmes-Foster/Highlands and 274 in College Heights.
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Both the Holmes-Foster/Highlands and College Heights neighborhoods are listed as historic districts in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.
The cause of preserving historic properties is a sound one, Myers said. Preserving the historic character of a neighborhood is also sound.
But, Myers said, he’s concerned that the prescriptive requirements for people to adhere to would create an economic hardship.
“We need more diversity and economic opportunity for families to buy homes in our neighborhoods — not less,” he said.
Councilman David Brown said he’s not impressed by the argument that the process has been rushed nor does he see the ordinance as being that prescriptive.
The greatest risk for the town and housing doesn’t come from a HARB, but rather realtors, developers and speculators who keep coming in and trying to take up these houses to tear them down or to turn them into rentals or “God forbid even slum lords who see a profit to be made.”
He said it seems that many of those who oppose the HARB stand to benefit financially from there being fewer regulations in the neighborhoods.