New bill could put historic neighborhoods at risk

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A controversial bill has lawmakers in Lansing are working on a plan that could put historic neighborhoods at risk in Detroit all over the state.

"My issue with it is, don't change the rules," Vega Wimmer said. "The rules are weak enough as they are, I can tell you that. They're very weak."

A 15-year resident in the Indian Village historic district,  Wimmer is not on board with a bill that would make changes to the way her community and others like it are maintained in the state of Michigan.

Three week ago, a state representative introduced a House and Senate bill and right now there are some key points that have people in Detroit fired up.

Number one, a district would have to be designated every decade.

"I look upon that as to why we should have to do it over and over," Wimmer said.

Also, there could be fewer to no limitations on materials used for home repairs. Amy Swift owns a business that specializes in historic window restoration, and shares what the impact could be.

"And what that does is, it impacts the neighborhood at large," Wimmer said. "If I purchase a home in a historic district, I feel safeguarded that my neighbors are going to make good decisions in their homes because they have to.

"When that oversight is taken away, it makes it difficult it very challenging to maintain specifically in Detroit, maintain property values in a way that makes me comfortable investing in that neighborhood."

For resident Amy Swift, her concern is if this bill does become law, historic districts throughout the state of Michigan could eventually disappear.

"If you start staying yes to one thing and pretty soon it's yes to something else," Swift said. "And yes and yes and yes and then it begins to look like another suburb in the city."

The sponsor of this bill, State Rep. Chris Afendoulis says he is considering making some revisions.

"I am not prepared yet to say exactly what we're going to do," he said. "But I take the feedback I've gotten to heart and we're looking at those provisions. In particular I think are the most concerning to a lot of people living in the historic districts."

One more thing Wimmer doesn't like is that there could also be a majority vote of the entire city on her district, which includes people who don't live there.

"And why should anybody have to vote outside the people living in the houses," she said. "We're the ones making sure the plumbing is working and the foundation isn't crumbling, roofs get done and so on. So I'm totally opposed."

The state rep says he plans to present his revisions by next week.