Dallas council looks at preserving history

If approved, historic preservation regulations may affect the Brixius Jeweler building.

Photo by Jolene Guzman
If approved, historic preservation regulations may affect the Brixius Jeweler building.

DALLAS — The city of Dallas took the first step to preserving the town’s architectural legacy on Feb. 5 by initiating the process to add historic preservation regulations to its development code.

Planning manager Scott Whyte provided the Dallas City Council with a brief overview of the proposed ordinance, which designated 12 properties in town to be subject to the regulations.

Among those buildings are the Polk County Courthhouse (850 Main St.), the former Ben Franklin Building, the Brixius Jewelers building (837 Main St.), the Evangelical Church (785 Church St.) and the First Presbyterian Church (879 Levens St.).

The ordinance creates a historic landmark commission that could add more properties to the list — or create a “historic district” — in the future.

“We are not adopting anything right now, but we are putting together an ordinance that follows state law and also observes property owner rights,” Whyte said.

The city must hold two public hearings, one before the Dallas Planning Commission and one before the council, and send notice to owners of the 12 properties — which would be subject to stricter alteration standards — and Department of Land Conservation and Development.

The first hearing is scheduled for March 13 before the planning commission. Depending on the commission’s decision, a hearing before the council will be scheduled.

Whyte said former planner Suzanne Dufner wrote the ordinance, but it didn’t go before the council until now.

“We feel pretty comfortable with that. It has been reviewed by our city attorney, also I sent a copy to the person at the State Historic Preservation Office,” Whyte said. “We got some good feedback, so we are ready to initiate things here.”

Councilor Jackie Lawson — who owns a building downtown and declared as much before the council vote — said the ordinance and development of a landmarks commission could help the city keep its unique architectural features intact.

“I just want to reiterate … what a huge benefit and opportunity this is if we actually get this designation,” Lawson said. “The potential grant money is huge.”

She said if the city proceeds, it should consider a downtown historic district to include the courthouse and surrounding blocks.

“We have property that is not seen in many places in the rest of the country, so the benefits of preserving the downtown, the character … are huge and I would highly recommend that we keep supporting this and keep investigating all the opportunities this gives us,” she said.

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