Morrison considers ordinance to protect historic buildings
by Gunnar Krull
In an effort to help preserve their buildings of historical significance like the Shobe-Morrison House, the Morrison City Council is considering drafting an ordinance that would establish a local preservation register.
At their Tuesday, Nov. 8, meeting, the Morrison City Council heard an informational presentation from a citizen with knowledge on the matter.
Becky Rost, an employee at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) but who previously worked at Missouri’s State Historic Preservation Office (MOSHPO) within the DNR, offered her personal insight to the board on what the City would need to do and what help the MOSHPO could provide.
Rost provided sample ordinances that Morrison could use as a template to establish a City Preservation Commission and recommended the City pursue becoming a Certified Local Government. According to the DNR, becoming a Certified Local Government facilitates the partnership between local communities, the MOSHPO, and the National Park Service to aid in local preservation efforts.
By becoming a Certified Local Government, Morrison would be eligible for a number of benefits including financial assistance, training for the potential Preservation Commission, and the ability for the local community to review and comment on nominations to the National Register of Historic Places.
The primary reason for this effort is the Shobe-Morrison House. Originally completed in 1830, the Shobe-Morrison House has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1983, but listing on the National Register of Historic Places is simply “an honor roll” according to Rost and offers no preservation protections. Morrison has several buildings within the city limits that the Council feels hold historical significance and fears may fall into a state of irreversible dereliction if left on their current course.
Morrison would need to pass a historical preservation ordinance and establish a Preservation Commission as part of their municipal government in order to create a locally administered register for historic properties within the city like the Shobe-Morrison House.
The commission would be tasked with establishing state and federal-compliant criteria and a review process for prospective properties, reviewing local properties for their historical significance, and then making recommendations to the City Council on whether or not specific properties should be added to the local preservation register.
Once on the local register, the City would be eligible for state funds that are allocated to support Certified Local Governments and their preservation efforts, in addition to being capable of putting protections in place for the registered properties.
Another of the Council’s areas of concern was if a Preservation Commission would be able to protect buildings from destruction by the state or federal government. Rost stated ultimately it would not, because of the state or federal governments’ ability to use eminent domain, but went on to say that if a property was on a local historical preservation register the government would be required to make all reasonable accommodations to avoid destruction.
The potential use of eminent domain is of particular concern with the Shobe-Morrison House because of its close proximity to Highway 100 and the worry that the state may want to make alterations to the course of the highway that could put the house at risk.
Council members asked if the commission, should it be established, could be comprised of citizens who also serve on the City Council, but because these types of commissions are typically appointed by the mayor and act as a recommending body with the final decision left to the Council, Rost stated the commission would need to be made up of different citizens outside of the Council members.
Mayor Melissa Strope supported the idea of a preservation ordinance and plans to have the Council look over their options, potentially meeting with Rost again before beginning drafting the ordinance.