Downtown Niles could become local historic districtPublished 6:25pm Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Property owners in downtown Niles might soon have to gain permission from a city board before making changes to the exterior of their downtown property.
During a committee of the whole meeting Monday, the Niles City Council discussed the merits of changing the city’s historic district ordinance to include a large portion of downtown Niles.
According to the proposed ordinance, a seven-member Local Historic District Commission would be created to decide if changes to a downtown building’s exterior are deemed appropriate.
The ordinance would also require property within the downtown historic district to have installed a fire alarm or smoke alarm at the expense of the property owner.
“We are trying to protect the historic structures by requiring they have smoke alarm systems,” said Juan Ganum, Niles community development director.
Fire Chief Larry Lamb said the cost of installing a smoke alarm system could be upwards of $1,000 depending upon the size of the building and type of system.
Councilman Scott Clark said he had a problem with a government entity telling him — or any other business owner — what he can or can’t do with his property.
Lisa Croteau, of Niles DDA, said the design of the historic district commission isn’t to boss people around.
“This is not intended to make it harder on anybody — it is intended to help property values and people’s investment in their property downtown,” Croteau said.
Ganum said downtown Niles is on the National Register of Historic Places, receiving the designation from the National Parks Service in 2007. However, he said the designation is honorary and doesn’t do anything to protect the downtown.
The downtown would be protected if it were included in the city’s historic district ordinance.