Last Tuesday the Duluth News Tribune reported that the third phase of a survey of historic properties in eastern Duluth commissioned by the Duluth Heritage Preservation Commission is littered with errors and omissions, mistakes brought to the DHPC’s attention by our own Maryanne C. Norton, author of our “Ask the Historian” column and coauthor of Lost Duluth. Mike Creger’s report explains the issues Norton found with the report—and that the same Twin Cities-based company who executed the survey has already been hired to execute the fourth phase. The Duluth Budgeteer ran a similar story over the weekend.
Many Duluthians aren’t aware of the DHPC and what it does, so we offer this primer:
Briefly, the DHPC is a group of citizen volunteers that, according to its bylaws, is “designed to serve in an advisory capacity to the City Council and Administration and is further empowered to perform certain quasi-judicial functions.” It is considered part of the city’s Planning Department.
A city must have an HPC to achieve Certified Local Government (CLG) status with the State Historic Preservation office to make it eligible for national historic preservation programs such as federal matching grants for renovating its historic properties.
Duluth’s HPC consists of seven volunteer citizens, registered voters residing within city limits. Five are appointed by the mayor; one is appointed by the Planning Commission and the least by the St. Louis County Historical Society.Two of those appointed by the mayor must be preservation professionals. There’s usually always an architect on the commission. Those appointed can serve two three-year terms.
Duluth’s HPC is currently the only HPC in the nation without a budget or a professional staff member.
One function of the DHPC is to designate homes and buildings as landmark properties and, through the Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) process, guide landmark building owners making historically compliant renovations. It is against Duluth law to alter a landmark building’s exterior without first obtaining a COA.
The DHPC also reviews plans for work on city-owned properties and even bridge and street repairs in public parks, passing along recommendations to the Planning Department or City Council.
There are other responsibilities as well, including commissioning historic surveys such as the East End Historic District survey in the news this week. They are outlined in the ordinance that created the DHPC (DHPC_Ordinance) and the DHPC’s bylaws (DHPC_Bylaws).
Visit the DHPC’s official web page to see who currently makes up the commission and download meeting minutes and agendas.