Historic Preservation Protesters Claim "Bait-And-Switch" Tactics Against Mayor Annise Parker

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Steve Jansen
Yesterday's scene in front of Houston City Hall.
There are a bunch of folks in Heights South, Woodland Heights and Glenbrook Valley seriously P.O.'d about what they're calling a classic "bait-and-switch" technique pulled by the City of Houston.

Today about 50 of them (which dwindled to about half that number once the rains came) gathered in front of the City Hall building on Bagby to speak out against recent historical preservation measures passed by the office of Mayor Annie Parker.

In between chants of "Where's the vote? We want out!" and the waving of handmade signs that read "Mayor Parker, Let Our People Go," residents of the aforementioned districts spoke out against the recent changes made to Houston's historic preservation rules.

By June 8 of last year, Woodland Heights, Glenbrook Valley and Heights South (which has since gone through a reconsideration process) had turned in their respective historic district applications that had a fifteen-year-old historic preservation ordinance attached. On October 13, the city adopted a new ordinance that, in the minds of some protesters, adds another unnecessary layer of red tape to home modifications.

Here's where the alleged switcheroo comes in: These neighborhoods are bound to the recently passed amendments, even though petitions were signed with the old ordinance in place. This, in other words, makes the subdivisions de facto historic districts bound to heftier provisions.

Another common complaint amongst the members of the rally is that city council hasn't voted on the issue for a year. If approved, Heights South, Woodland Heights and Glenbrook Valley would become historically preserved.

"The focus of the rally is not to express support or opposition to historic designation," says Glenbrook Valley's Stephen Stovall. "Our only message is to demand that the mayor bring the matter up for a vote by city council."

Heights South homeowner Shannon Cunningham adds, "We're not necessarily against historic preservation. We just don't agree with the process and that it has taken [city council] so long to vote."

Marlene Gafrick, City of Houston's Planning and Development Department director, tells Hair Balls that in order to become a historic district, three bodies, in the following order, have to approve: the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission (HAHC), the Planning and Development Department and City Council. Heights South, Woodland Heights and Glenbrook Valley are awaiting that final step.

Gafrick adds that she expects Mayor Parker to put these issues on the agenda after the budget is approved. Once there, Gafrick says that city council can cast a yes, no or a yes with modified district boundaries.

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