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Venice City Hall along Venice Avenue.

VENICE — The city’s Historic Preservation Board has taken a big step in its effort to get a new preservation ordinance approved.

It took “grudging” acceptance of a compromise by one of its members to achieve.

The first draft of the ordinance, which the board has been working on for more than a year, provided that anyone could nominate a property for inclusion on the Local Register of Historic Places.

The city currently relies on property owners to nominate their own property, which just isn’t working, Board Member Frank Wright said.

There are more than 100 properties that could qualify for the register but only six are on it, with a seventh halfway to approval by City Council, he said.

Under the proposed ordinance, the property owner would be notified and be given a chance to object but the property could be listed over the objection by a vote of the City Council. That would impose conditions on renovation or demolition.

The prospect of limiting property owners’ rights against their will raised red flags with the Planning Commission and City Council, as well as City Attorney Kelly Fernandez.

“We are a strong private property rights state,” she told the board at a workshop Friday.

In general, she said, any government action that limits or burdens an existing property right could trigger the Bert J. Harris Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act, potentially ending in a lawsuit and a payout for the owner’s loss.

She said she couldn’t suggest any language that could make the city immune if the ordinance were adopted with that provision.

An alternate provision, calling for the owner to be approached for consent prior to a nomination being filed, would be OK, she said.

Though “consent will hamper some of the progress you all wish to make,” it would avoid the risk of a Bert Harris challenge, Fernandez said.

But it wouldn’t advance the board’s mission as well as the original version, Wright said.

Board Chair Jean Trammell asked Wright whether he would rather cling to the “gold standard” of the original language or bend in the interest of getting the ordinance passed.

“On this particular point we may have to bite the bullet,” she said.

“I accept reality,” he replied.

The board still has more than half of the draft ordinance to review. It will continue the job either at another workshop or its next regular meeting, on Nov. 20.


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