I am writing as a follow up to the recent letter about leaving downtown alone ("Leave downtown alone," Reader Forum, Tuesday, Dec. 8).
If a developer entered into purchase agreements with the owners of an entire block of downtown Sun Prairie and proposed to tear it all down and build something new that was consistent with current zoning, even if all the alderpersons on the city council were fervently passionate about historic preservation, there probably would be nothing the city council could do to stop the project.
If the city council said no and the developer sued the city, the developer almost certainly would win, and the project would go forward.
The saving grace in my hypothetical situation is that the developer probably would ask for tax increment financing (TIF) assistance, and the city council could kill the project by refusing to give TIF assistance.
But if developers want to knock down a historic building here or there and replace it with a new building without TIF assistance, there probably would be nothing the City Council could do to stop it.
To be able to say no to that without risking a lawsuit that the city government would lose, the council must enact a historic preservation ordinance with teeth. The ordinance would provide a process for developers and property owners to request permission to alter or tear down historic buildings. The ordinance would contain standards for the Historic Preservation Commission to use in deciding whether to approve or deny the application.
If the application is denied, the developer or property owner could appeal to the city council, but the city council would apply the same standards to determine whether to uphold or overturn the denial by the Historic Preservation Commission.
Such an ordinance would enable the city government to say no to tearing down historic buildings with little risk of being sued and losing the lawsuit. The ordinance also would apply to the city government if it wanted to purchase and tear down a historic building.
If you are passionate about preserving historic buildings in Sun Prairie, I suggest you ask candidates for mayor and alderperson whether they support enacting a historic preservation ordinance with teeth.