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West MI lawmakers propose state historic district changes

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Two west Michigan lawmakers have taken primary roles in bills seeking to change state guidelines on local historic districts. 

State Senator Roger MacGregor (R - Rockford) is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 720, which seeks to update the state’s Local Historic Districts Act. State Rep. Chris Afendoulis (R - Grand Rapids Twp.) is a primary sponsor of H.B. 5232 - the house's version of the bill. 

"The act itself is 45 years old," MacGregor says. "What this does is, it modernizes these areas that have lost touch or lost control - local control - in regards to their communities.” 

The state act was signed into law in 1970. It defines and regulates how local historic districts are formed, what the rules are and who oversees it. 

Multiple districts exist in west Michigan.

MacGregor says the proposed changes are about striking a better balance between historic preservation and local input – something he says the current act lacks.

"None of the control is at the local level," he says. "If you want to appeal something, it’s done by bureaucrats in Lansing. If your community has changed, and you want to alter it, it’s not done at the local level.

"There are many parts in here that brings that control back - not only to the local level, but also gives a say by the local property owners who actually own this property."  

One proposed change requires the approval of two-thirds of property owners in the district prior to its creation.

Another alters supervisory body membership to include the presence of at least one local elected official and at least one other involved in residential or commercial construction.

Both were introduced Tuesday in the house and senate respectively, and have drawn near-immediate criticism by local and state historic districts and municipalities. 

Other local lawmakers are among co-sponsors in both chambers. 

Hilary is a General Assignment and Enterprise reporter for WGVU Public Media. She joined WGVU in September 2014 after several years of experience as a local news reporter, anchor and photojournalist in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties. She's also worked as a financial and business reporter and audio field producer.
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