Planners hope to make history pay for itself
The Nome Planning Commission has passed a resolution asking the Nome Common Council to alter existing city law to add the work of a Historic Preservation Commission to the planners’ duties.
The idea was good, said planners. It could lead to money to spiff up and make one person’s derelict structure another person’s historic gem.
If Nome joined the Certified Local Government Program established by the federal government, the city could apply for grants to provide for financial and technical assistance for saving historic resources at the local level. That could even include cemetery restoration and preservation planning and stabilization of historic structures, even renovating or repurposing historic structures for meeting places or low income housing options for Nome residents.
The panel talked over the time commitment and decided it would not be too great a burden. The first tasks of the HPC would be to develop a local historic preservation plan; review and make recommendations on local projects that might affect properties tagged in the historic preservation plan and review nominations to the National Register of Historic Places for properties within its jurisdiction.
Other powers would call for the NPC, an advisory body, to do what it already does, including preparing and making recommendations to the council on comprehensive planning with amendments from time to time to foster systematic development, land use planning and coastal zone management, as well as platting and mapping work.
The HPC would not meet separately; work could be part of regular Nome Planning Commission meetings.
“I think it would be a really good way to set the city up to receive grants to preserve our history,” which would benefit tourism and economic development, Commissioner Sara Lizak said. “The more we preserve our history, the better outcome we are going to have.”
“The benefit far exceeds the cost,” Commissioner Ken Hughes said.
Tom Moran, city manager, urged the Planning Commission to undertake the project.
“Someone is going to do it,” he said, adding that if the group voted down the resolution, the opportunity would go to the Nome Library and Museum Commission.
In previous discussions commissioners had decided the duties of the historic preservation better fit under the NPC as much of the work called for—planning.
The city would welcome an additional revenue source. To keep the property tax at 11 mills, the council and staff cut the spending year 2017 budget by around $560,000 compared to FY-2016.
“Times are tight,” Moran told the group. “There’s not a lot of leather left on the belt to punch.”
The commission unanimously passed the resolution urging the council to consider a draft ordinance presented to the panel at last month’s meeting by Eileen Bechtol, Nome’s contract planner.
Museum Director Amy Phillips-Chan and Commissioner Sara Lizak attended the Alaska Historic Preservation Conference last fall on a grant from the state Office of History and Archaeology. The conference focused on the economics of historic preservation, planning historic preservation projects and information on becoming an Alaska Certified Local Government, necessary to participate in the preservation program.
An initial proposal could include the development of signs with historic information on a walking tour of Nome to include residential, commercial, civic and religious buildings around Nome.