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Concern for Mackinac Island stops bill to change historic preservation rules

Pure Michigan

An effort to change rules for protecting historic buildings in Michigan appears to have failed. House Bill 5232 would have made it more difficult for cities and other local governments to create historic districts and maintain them.

Supporters of the proposal say these districts can be a burden on homeowners forced to comply with historic standards. The proposal would have required two-thirds of property owners in a proposed historic district to approve of the idea before it could be considered.

State Rep. Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) chairs the local government committee that was considering the bill. He suspended debate on it yesterday.

Chatfield told IPR earlier this month that he was particularly worried about Mackinac Island. The town on the island is a 200-year old city with multiple historic districts. It took years of debate to establish them. Under the legislation, historic districts in Michigan would expire after 10 years.

“I want to be sure that we are protecting what makes Mackinac Island unique to the state and at the same time protecting property rights for people across the state,” said Chatfield.

Chatfield says the bill’s supporters have legitimate concerns but he wasn’t convinced this was the best way to address them.

“I feel that my decision to suspend this bill best reflects the needs of my district,” he told IPR in a text message yesterday.

The bill's sponsor, Chris Afendoulis (R-East Grand Rapids), says he's still working to "address an important property rights issue." An identical bill has been introduced in the Michigan Senate.