Item 32 of the City Council Agenda for October 24 deletes Section 20.20.080.A.1 of the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance, which purports to regulate properties that are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Texas Historical Commission and § 60.2 of the Code of Federal Regulations make very clear that privately-owned National Register properties are not subject to any regulations unless their owners wish to apply for historic tax credits to restore them
Thus, Section 20.20.080.A.1, which has been on the City books for decades, violates federal law.
For years, critics of establishing a Downtown El Paso National Register Historic District have cited Section 20.20.080.A.1 as the reason for their opposition, even though the City declared publicly that their concern is unfounded.
Once the section in question is deleted, the City can finally support the County’s plan to establish the proposed district so that generous federal and state tax credits will become available to restore the 191 historic properties in our Downtown.
That would include the 12 historic buildings within the former “Arena Footprint” in Duranguito, which will need those tax credits if they are to be sold to private investors who wish to restore them.
For years, former City Manager Tommy Gonzalez internally blocked efforts to remove 20.20.080.A.1 so that certain developers who wanted a multipurpose sports arena in Duranguito (and did not want the properties on the site to be declared historic) would have a pretext for opposing the historic district.
Many kudos to Historic Preservation Officer Providencia Velazquez, the City Plan Commission, and Interim City Manager Cary Westin for taking the necessary taking steps for removing this irritating obstacle to progress.