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Belton approves historic preservation ordinance

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TWC News: Belton approves historic preservation ordinance
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As soon as Belton resident Veronica Manuel stepped into her home on Belton's Main Street, she fell in love.

"I walk in and I smelled my grandma's house," she said.

She and her family moved into the historic home several years ago and have been working to restore the interior ever since.

"I love older houses because there so much history in it," she said.

Historic homes and buildings like hers are woven into the fabric of the Belton community. To try and protect that, the City of Belton passed a heritage preservation ordinance in 2009 which created six historic districts.

"It's important to us not only from a commercial standpoint, to bring in visitors, but it's important for those of us who have lived here forever and ever. [It gives us] the opportunity to continue to enjoy our community," planning and zoning commission member Dan Kirkley said.

But several problems with the ordinance were brought to light last year, including a lawsuit filed against the city by the University of Mary Hardin Baylor.

The university sued the city after their request to demolish two homes on university-owned property, within the historic district, were denied. Under the existing ordinance, the only path available to appeal the decision by the preservation board was to take the issue to court.

The lawsuit prompted the city to issue a moratorium on enforcing the ordinance.

"As we have seen as we have gone along, it really wasn't everything it needed to be, to both protect the individual citizens and to keep the profile of the community," Kirkley said.

In March, the city hired a consultant to help them review the ordinance. According to the consultant's review, there were problems with the lack of public input, transparency and the appeal process in the existing ordinance.

Following the assessment, the city came up with a new historic preservation ordinance to replace the existing ordinance. On Monday, the new ordinance was brought before the planning and zoning commission for their approval.

One of the major changes includes the appeal process, which will be in the hands of the city council instead of the courts.

"Hopefully we're grown up enough to take those lessons, learn from them and benefit the community in the process," Kirkley said.

The issue will now go before the city council for approval Tuesday.

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