Topeka — Five older Lawrence neighborhoods passed a critical test Saturday on their way to listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
But state historic resources officials reduced the area covered in one nomination -- the so-called "Pinckney No. 1" neighborhood -- after emotional opposition from residents who said the federal designation would entangle their properties in red tape.
"They don't want to be told what they can or can't do with their property," said Margaret Thorp, an attorney representing two property owners in the 400 block of Ohio Street.
Originally, the designated neighborhood primarily included properties in the 400 and 500 blocks of Tennessee, Ohio and Louisiana streets. After hearing protests Saturday, the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review cut all properties northwest of Fifth and Ohio streets out of the nomination.
"At some point, I think it's important we recognize it's not our neighborhood; it's their neighborhood," said board member David Sachs, a Kansas State University architecture professor.
Along with the remnants of Pinckney No. 1, the board approved national register nominations for four other neighborhoods:
- Downtown Lawrence: Covers properties along Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets, mostly between Seventh and Park streets.
- Pinckney No. 2: Covers the 300 block and part of the 400 block of Indiana Street.
- North Rhode Island: Covers most properties along Rhode Island Street, between Seventh and 12th streets, and a few properties in the 1200 block of Rhode Island.
- South Rhode Island: Covers most of the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Rhode Island Street, as well as the 1300 block of New Hampshire.
More than a dozen people attended Saturday's meeting, including Douglas County Commission Chairman Charles Jones, who lives in the Pinckney No. 1 neighborhood.
"Heritage is a big issue in our community," he told the board.
Placement on the national register comes with restrictions on development within the "environs" -- 500 feet -- of any listed property. Any activity that requires a building permit within those districts, even on buildings that aren't themselves historic, is subject to review by the city's seven-member Historic Resources Commission.
"The price of your protection, having to comply with the commission to make any changes to my house, is a price I don't want to pay," said Kent Van Hoesen, who owns a home at 425 Ohio.
The board's decision to leave Van Hoesen's property out of the district was good, he said afterward. But it still leaves him in the environs.
"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it," he said after the meeting.
On the plus side, historic properties are eligible for tax credits when they are remodeled, city officials said. That doesn't help owners of other property in the environs, but it might spur preservation efforts for deteriorating properties in historic areas.
"Good changes do happen in Lawrence's downtown, but now the owners will be able to take advantage of tax credits," said Deon Wolfenbarger, a preservation consultant hired by the city to promote the downtown nomination.
A. Townsend Peterson, who owns property in the North Rhode Island district, said he hoped placement on the national register would help save East Lawrence.
"East Lawrence is the oldest district of the city, but it's an underappreciated district of the city," Peterson said.
Following expected approval by the State Historic Preservation Officer, the nominations will be forwarded to the National Park Service for consideration. Officials said that agency typically took three to six months to make the final determination.