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City supports designation of local historical district

Naming of committee by mayor leads to questions in regard to state statutes

by Mark Vasto
Landmark reporter

In what could be argued as snatching defeat from the hands of victory, the Platte City Board of Aldermen approved a resolution that would seem to support an application to the National Historic Registry for Platte City’s downtown, but in reality may have violated state statutes.

Originally planned on the agenda to be a special ordinance protecting the “historic and architectural character” of downtown Platte City, city officials changed the wording of the issue to become a resolution one day before the regularly scheduled meeting of the aldermen on Tuesday.

The resolution declares support for a district that begins at the Platte City Cemetery at the north, the Platte River on the west, to Marshall Road on the west and continuing south to Academy Street.

The original ordinance created an independent “historical preservation committee” that consisted of Alderman George McClintock, the mayor’s wife and business partner Mary Ann Brooks, and Shirley Kimsey. The committee was to be of “independent function” and would have the support of the aldermen to present a petition on behalf of the city to put the downtown district on the National Historic Registry.

The ordinance was not designed to become a part of the municipal code according to city officials, but may have repealed the city’s existing Residential Conservation District that was incorporated in June of 1999.
The subsequent and approved version of the measure was re-written as a resolution in support of the same committee to nominate the downtown district to the National Historic Registry, as provided by Chapter 89 of the Missouri Statutes dealing with zoning and planning.

While those statutes provide for the naming of such districts, the statute also specifically prohibits city legislative bodies from making such regulations, restrictions or boundaries without a public hearing at which interested parties and citizens can be heard. Platte City has never held such a hearing and at this date apparently has no plans to do so.

The resolution makes no mention of any future public hearing plans.

After a brief questioning of several downtown Platte City merchants and property owners by The Landmark, none have been contacted by the commission (with the obvious exception of Kimsey and Mary Ann Brooks, who both maintain storefronts downtown). In addition, a hearing has never been announced within 15 days notice through any legal notice as required by the statute.

When questioned by The Landmark, Platte City Mayor Dave Brooks said the naming of the board was “no big deal” and stressed the board’s independent status. Unanswered, however, was how an independent board could declare a zoned district and represent the city’s interests in such a matter. When this question was posed to McClintock — the only elected member of the historic commission —McClintock expressed that he was unclear as to the law regarding the project as well and characterized his involvement with the project as minor.
Kimsey was present at the meeting early on, but left for a prior engagement before the resolution was passed and was subsequently unavailable for questions from the press at the time of this writing. She left a note with Alderman Bill Knighton stating that “the paperwork was underway” for presentation to unspecified Jefferson City officials (believed to be members of the DNR).

Historic districts have been credited with protecting investments of business owners and residents, providing for increased tourism revenue and increasing business recruitment and retention.

Locally, Lexington and Weston, Missouri have used their own historic districts to do just that. The beleaguered and rapidly dwindling merchant section of downtown Platte City (a condition described as being “cyclical” by the city’s chamber of commerce) has recently begun studying the idea for this area.

The issue of a historic district came back into public focus after The Landmark reported on a group of Main Street merchants who desired additional signage on I-29 that pointed to the city’s downtown. (Those signs, it was announced at the May 25 meeting of the board of aldermen, will be coming to the city in late June).

During a visit to the city to discuss the signage, Missouri Department of Transportation Traffic Studies Engineer Keith Lay wondered aloud if the city was interested in pursuing the idea of a downtown historic district, but said city representatives seemed cool to the idea.

“I kind of threw that out there,” Lay recounted. “I didn’t get much of a response.”

Soon after, The Landmark contacted Kimsey, a noted Platte City historian, for assistance on a news feature about the possibility of pursuing a historic designation for downtown Platte City. At that time, Kimsey told The Landmark that she had worked on a similar project a little more than a quarter a century ago.

Kimsey decided after the issue was raised by The Landmark in its article published on Feb. 26, 2004, to once again pursue the idea.

Since then, questions have arisen over Kimsey’s interpretation of the requirements Platte City would have to meet in order to become a part of the registry. Kimsey has expressed in past meetings of the Platte City Area Development Association (PCADA), and in a brief afternoon visit to The Landmark, that being on the registry would require a facelift of properties and could prevent ownership from making changes to their buildings.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has soundly rejected both assertions.

The DNR’s National Historic Register Coordinator Tiffany Patterson said that being placed on the register would make the area eligible for grant money, but would not mean that property owners couldn’t upkeep their property in any way they see fit.

“That’s one of the biggest myths about the register,” Patterson explained. “The person who owns the property is free to sell or maintain their property in any way they want," Patterson told The Landmark.


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