If you are a property owner in the city of Harlem and have not attended one of the "informational meetings" of the Harlem Historic Preservation Commission, shame on you.
This commission has been meeting and planning for the past four years for ways to preserve the historical integrity of our town. Until recently, this has gone on without much input from the public at large. According to our mayor, these plans are being finalized, at which time they will be presented to the City Council to be voted on.
In the mayor's newsletter article he writes, "Are we giving up some rights to allow the Historic Preservation Commission some say in how buildings are modified? Yes." I'm sorry, Mr. Mayor, but that just doesn't give me a warm, fuzzy feeling. My property is just that, my property. I pay the taxes, the insurance, the upkeep, and I feel that how I maintain my property is my business, not that of a commission that has no investment in my property.
If I need to fence in my yard to keep grandchildren safe or a senile grandparent from wandering off, I don't want to have to get "permission" from a committee (which will take 30 days or more to be make the decision) before I can do what I need to do. If I want to replace the rusty wrought iron railings around my front porch with clean, white PVC railings, that's my decision, not a committee. If I want to replace my drafty windows with vinyl replacement windows for $400 a window, but the commission says they don't meet their qualifications, and I have to have them custom-made at $1,200 a window, then I'll just have to live with the drafty ones.
If you (citizens of Harlem) have seen the listings for the meetings in the newsletter but thought it did not pertain to you, you are sadly mistaken. This is not just about the main street through town. If you live within a mile radius of the traffic signal, this affects you. If you live on Forrest, Trippe, Hicks, Boundary, Hatcher, Bell, Church, Keener, or one of the other many streets in our town, it affects you. Particularly, if your home or property is 50-plus years old, this really affects you.
Unless you have tried to do any work on your property that requires a building permit, you probably don't know that this same committee has placed a moratorium on building permits. If you want to do some work on your house next week, you cannot get a permit to do so. It would appear that this commission doesn't want any work projects started until they (HPC) are in control.
I urge you to get in contact with our councilmen, mayor, and business people to find out more about this situation. City Hall has a publication that you can get a copy of to find out more. Most of you, like me, love our town and want it to be the best it can be. But I don't believe we need a commission to tell us what we can and cannot do in order to accomplish just that.
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