Tick Segerblom Champions Assembly Bill 304 To Protect Historic Neighborhoods In Las Vegas As Well As All Of Nevada

IMG_1059Yesterday, I attended and spoke at my first ever Legislative Hearing. Today was the Government Affairs Subcommittee of the State Assembly. The hearing was in Carson City, but there was a remote teleconference center set up in the Sawyer Building.

We were there to speak on behalf of AB 304 which has been introduced and is being championed by Tick Segerblom from District 9.

AB 304 inserts the requirement to consider the impact on Historic Neighborhoods into all the various laws about development, and does it for all government entities.  All projects (especially road and streets) and zoning changes etc would be required to have impact studies done. It provides us with an important tool to help fight off development encroachment into the historic neighborhoods. It also provides a different method for the utility companies to fund the “undergrounding” of all the utility lines in the historic neighborhoods.

For those interested, Here’s a link to the actual bill.  Assembly Bill 304, sponsored by Assemblyman Tick Segerblom.

I’m pasting his summary so you can see for yourself why this would be a great tool in the arsenal of us preservationists.

Tick would appreciate any comments, and letters of support. You can email him at tick@cox.net

Assembly Committee on Government Affairs March 20, 2009Assembly Bill 304— Preservation of existing or historic neighborhoods; undergrounding of utilities; and vacation of streets.  Existing and Historic Neighborhoods *    Throughout the United States and Nevada, homeowners in older neighborhoods sometimes find themselves fighting new development in or around their homes that threatens to destroy the character of their neighborhoods. 

*    The loss of these neighborhoods is especially acute when the neighborhood contains unique architectural features or other attributes which make the neighborhood historic.  

 

  *    The cornerstone of this bill is the requirement for master plans to include an historic neighborhood preservation plan which will be implemented through an historic preservation commission. *    Chapter 278 of the Nevada Revised Statutes and chapters relating to redevelopment or local improvements—do NOT specifically address the impact of new streets and roads on existing neighborhoods and do NOT require the identification and protection of historic neighborhoods.   *    Sections 1 through 16 of this bill address those shortcomings by:  (1) requiring master plans in cities and counties to consider the impact of new streets and roads on existing or historic neighborhoods; and (2) requiring master and redevelopment plans to include a historic neighborhood preservation plan element. 
 

*    One of the most important pieces of the bill is the requirement to create a preservation commission to monitor and promote the protection of historic neighborhoods so we can better preserve this important part of our history.  [§ 7, page 7]  *    This is not a new or novel concept—why not identify, inventory, and protect historic neighborhoods the same way historic buildings are identified and inventoried for protection.  *    Preservationists are starting to look at historic preservation in a more holistic way; by preserving buildings in relation to one another and in their original setting, we give future generations a much better picture of life in an earlier time than by just preserving isolated structures in the absence of any historical context.   Undergrounding Utilities *    The second prong of this legislation is giving homeowners in older or historic neighborhoods another option for funding the undergrounding of utilities.  [§ 20-24, pages 20-23] *    Removing unsightly overhead power lines makes a huge difference in the appearance of a neighborhood and certainly improves the scenery and quality of life for both the homeowners and the community at large.  *    Although Nevada law allows for the creation of local improvement or service districts to assess benefited property owners for the cost of undergrounding utilities; the statutes do not permit any of the undergrounding costs in existing neighborhoods to be included in utility rates—thus spreading out the cost.  *    Yet when new subdivisions are built with underground utilities, the costs can be absorbed into utility rates, so this bill ensures that this option is equally available to existing or historic neighborhoods.  *    Ratepayers will have input through a public hearing process, and directly benefited property owners in a special district who are paying part of the cost of undergrounding will not be double billed.      [§ 20 and 23, pages 21-22] 
 

Impacts of New Streets and Roads *    The third prong of this legislation is aimed at helping existing or historic neighborhoods to maintain their tranquility and quality of life by requiring local governments and Nevada’s Department of Transportation to consider the impact of new streets and roads on those neighborhoods. *    Transportation planning should take into account the traffic patterns created by new roads and especially those traffic patterns that might negatively impact older or historic neighborhoods. *    By including this requirement in the statutes, we will ensure that it is not overlooked. *    For example, when designing new roads local governments and NDOT need to consider whether the design might result in older neighborhoods becoming a shortcut and inundated with traffic. *    Finally, to prevent a small number of people (maybe even just one) from blocking the vacation of a city street, the bill prohibits a city from requiring the consent of more than 80 percent of affected property owners to the vacation.  [§ 17, page 20]  Concluding Remarks *    This bill gives planning commissions and local governments several new tools to protect existing and historic neighborhoods. *    This bill will empower local governments to say “no” to a developer proposing a new project that will destroy the character of an older or historic neighborhood.   *    In short, this bill requires local governments to stop and think about their neighborhoods and to ensure that existing and historic neighborhoods are not thoughtlessly eradicated by “progress.”   *    I urge your support of A.B. 304 to protect Nevada neighborhoods and to leave a legacy of preservation to our children.