Historic Preservation, the Water Tower, and Big Arnold Government

14 Nov

The city of Arnold now has a historic preservation commission, spearheaded by councilman Jason Fulbright and passed at the October 1 city council meeting. Here’s how it works, from the October 22 Leader:

Fulbright said once the commission members are appointed, they will work to identify buildings or areas that need preservation and, after notifying the owners and holding public hearings, the City Council would decide whether to place them on the city’s register of significant buildings, landmarks or areas.

Once a building, landmark or area is on the Arnold register, the owner would have to get the city’s permission to change it, Fulbright said.

Setting aside the question of whether there is anything historic in Arnold, you’d better hope that the city doesn’t cast its eyes on your somewhat old building, or you could lose your rights. See this from the city’s new ordinance, which passed unanimously:

Text from new Arnold ordinance on historic preservation

I see nothing there requiring any consultation or coordination with the owner of the property. A public hearing would be held, but a property owner would apparently have to show up and beg not to be listed, if he/she wanted no part of this. There’s also this:

Text from new Arnold ordinance on historic preservation

As I read this, once your structure hits 75 years of age, the city automatically claims power to restrict your property rights.

Keep it Green

The first target of the commission is the Arnold water tower, which is undergoing a controversial color change. As reported by the Post-Dispatch, the city wants to explore putting the tower on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

But it turns out that there are several hurdles:

  • A site must be more than 50 years old to be nominated to the NRHP (unless it is extra special). The tower was built in 1977, making it only 38 years old.
  • Listing a site on the NRHP requires the consent of the owner (unlike the city’s historic listing process). Would Arnold Public Water District #1, which owns the tower and chose to paint it blue, consent to this?
  • A site must have some sort of historical significance. I see no such significance in this water tower.
  • The tower’s new paint job will be completed within a few weeks (blue paint is already being applied), long before the NRHP process gets going.
  • YOU CAN STILL PAINT A SITE THAT’S LISTED ON THE NRHP. This is from a Texas Q&A, but it is still relevant here:

Q: If my home is listed in the National Register, can I still paint it the color I want, remodel, or make an addition?

A: Yes. As long as there’s no federal money or permit involved, the National Register program does not place any restrictions on how homeowners treat their properties.

I don’t even think that inclusion on the more-restrictive Arnold historic property list can prevent a a new paint job. It only regulates alteration, demolition, and removal, and alteration seems to refer to actual structural modifications. So I really don’t know what the city hopes to accomplish with the water tower.


How about this paragraph:


Real estate index of St. Louis County? Was this whole ordinance lifted from St. Louis County ordinances, and someone (perhaps a certain city attorney) neglected to fix this particular paragraph?

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