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City Council fails its most important responsibility

By Scott Tibbs, March 7, 2012

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Historical designation and property rights
Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2012 16:17:08 -0800 (PST)
From: Scott Tibbs <tibbs1973@yahoo.com>
To: mayert@bloomington.in.gov, sandbers@bloomington.in.gov, ruffa@bloomington.in.gov, sturbauc@bloomington.in.gov , grangerd@bloomington.in.gov, spechlem@bloomington.in.gov, rollod@bloomington.in.gov, neherd@bloomington.in.gov, volans@bloomington.in.gov


I am very disappointed in your decision to establish a historic district to prevent the house at 700 N Walnut from being moved - intact - to a nearby neighborhood.

A letter to the editor last Saturday argued, "when someone has the means to purchase properties that have obvious architectural historic value, they have a responsibility to society to preserve the integrity of those structures." There was never any question that the integrity of the structure was going to be preserved. It was simply going to be in a different location.

The fact that the house was going to be moved, not demolished, is the reason why you should have voted down the historic district. The historical value of the home would not be damaged if it existed in a different part of Bloomington, instead of the Walnut Street artery, which is an important commercial corridor for our city. Because the house is unattractive as office space, much of it sits empty.

The Herald-Times reported that some neighbors supported the historical designation because the house is a "buffer to nearby development." One could argue whether or not this is a good argument in terms of land use policy, but it is a poor argument for whether a property should be designated historic. Whether a property is or is not historic has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not it serves the interest of a specific land use policy goal.

Because of Indiana University, Bloomington is better off economically than surrounding communities, but we have still felt the sting of this harsh recession. The property owner was poised to create jobs for your constituents, both short term construction jobs and long term jobs once the property is developed. You could have seen jobs created without raising a finger or spending a dime of taxpayer money, but you chose to stand in the way of more jobs.

The Fifth Amendment places an important restriction on government with the following clause: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." If the City Council feels that it serves the public for this property to be preserved as is, then I will make the same suggestion I made when you designated the Elks Lodge building as historic. Buy it. By preventing the Bomba family from developing the land, you have engaged in an effective taking of the property, but the owners will not be compensated for it.

The most important job you have as city councilors, above and beyond anything else you do, is to protect the rights of the people of Bloomington. To the two members who voted to protect private property rights, thank you. To the other seven, you have failed in your most important duty as elected officials.

Scott Tibbs
Resident of City Council District I