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History can be preserved without a full-time planner

Is there much question that we live in a community with a significant history? There is that big concrete plug in the Colorado River just down the road that is an engineering wonder of the world. You know, Hoover Dam. And we are the home of Hoover Dam.

We have a proud history that is well documented and important in the story of America. Our history also draws customers to many of our businesses. But we have never established the protections that are needed to preserve our history through the wonderful architecture designed in the original master-planned city that was built in the 1930s.

That has not been for a lack of effort. Dozens of citizens have worked on effective plans over the years that would have provided sound preservation policies. Hundreds of other communities across this country have made the decision to follow the established guidelines that were determined by the National Park Service decades ago.

The city has had a historic preservation committee for more than 10 years consisting of volunteers. Members of the committee normally meet each month. The committee created a voluntary survey of city residents last year that received more than 800 responses. Residents responded with overwhelming support for historic preservation efforts.

At the last City Council meeting, I asked for the recently created position of historic preservation planner to not be funded. A majority of council members supported the decision to remove the funding. The planner position would have cost approximately $1 million over the next 10 years. Boulder City would become the only city in Nevada with a full-time position. Even Las Vegas with a dozen historic districts has not had a full-time preservation officer or planner.

Some members of the community have questioned that decision. My reasoning for making the request is that much of the work that is needed for preservation efforts is already known. Plans that were researched and assembled remain on the shelf waiting to be implemented.

The historic district in Boulder City was created following a survey of properties in 1982 and 1983. The national standards suggest that historic districts have a survey conducted every 10 years. A follow-up survey of the Boulder City Historic District has never been conducted.

Historic preservation codes are included in the zoning codes of many cities. Zoning codes contain standards for such things as the distance buildings are to be set back from the street or the maximum height of a house. Preservation codes typically apply to the exterior architecture of a building such as doors, windows, roof materials and trim.

The original historic preservation zoning code for Boulder City was not passed until 2000. Key provisions of the code such as the cultural resources committee were never implemented.

The state has a Historic Preservation Office, as do all 50 states. The SHPO provides guidance and recommendations to cities as well having grants available each year. A request from Boulder City to be recognized as a Certified Local Government is pending final approval by the National Park Service. This recognition allows the city to apply for available grants.

I served on the city historic preservation committee prior to being elected to City Council. The lack of attention to effective historic preservation shown by Boulder City’s government over the years was a major motivation for me in campaigning for City Council and mayor. I know volunteers on the city’s historic preservation committee have experience and knowledge to evaluate and recommend actions to achieve preservation goals.

Where more expertise is needed, I believe it will far more economical to hire consultants for the short time needed to provide more detailed plans or complete surveys. This is a standard practice for other communities.

Our residents have made their desire known over many years to preserve our history and I am committed to seeing those goals achieved. While a historic preservation planner would be helpful in achieving the goals, I believe it is more fiscally responsible to utilize the resources we have and all the prior work that others have completed.

Kiernan McManus is mayor of Boulder City. He is a native of Boulder City first elected to City Council in 2017.

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