Demolition Notification Ordinance
Demolition Notification Ordinance
As America’s First Settlement, our city — and we as Pensacolians — pride ourselves on our rich history and culture that attracts visitors from across the world. There is nothing more valuable to Pensacola than our history. Plenty of cities have vibrant downtowns and beautiful beaches. There’s only one that has those things and can call itself America’s first city. Pensacola has more heritage than any city in America, yet we continue to be outpaced by cities like Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans when it comes to heritage tourism and protecting our most valuable assets.
Today, there is a call for urgency: for the Pensacola City Council to take up a common-sense proposal to pass a Demolition Notification Ordinance to create greater transparency in the development process for our unprotected historic buildings across our city.
It’s a move that makes a lot of sense for a city that just celebrated its 459th birthday.
The ordinance would be a big win for Pensacola’s preservation community and our historic, often neglected, neighborhoods.
Before demolition permits can be issued for buildings older than sixty years, the new Demolition Notification Ordinance would require property owners to inform abutting neighbors and their Councilmember’s office of any planned demolition activity and to post a public notice on the property.
The ordinance creates a thirty-day window for stakeholders to potentially negotiate preservation alternatives if a significant historic property is affected. This could include nominating it for National Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) or National Historic Landmarks (NHL) designation.
This proposed ordinance doesn’t just make sense for preserving our history and culture, it makes good business sense. A 2010 study coauthored by University of Florida and Rutgers University scholars found that historic preservation activities in Florida generate an estimated annual economic impact of $6.6 billion, including more than $4 billion a year in heritage tourism spending.
Notably, since the demolition of the landmark John Sunday house in 2016, multiple community groups have formed in response to teardowns in residential neighborhoods. For example, members of Save Our Structures (S.O.S.) organization have energized the public to promote the donation and relocation of unwanted historic homes and structures within the city.
Earlier losses of significant structures such as the John Sunday home and Hallmark School have highlighted the need for a stop-gap measure.
In the last 25 years, we’ve lost countless historic landmarks, to include the San Carlos Hotel. Just within the last two years, we’ve lost dozens of historic homes, schools, and businesses due to a lack of oversight and common sense historic preservation standards in our neighborhoods. Many of these structures, to include the Hallmark School on South E Street, the John Sunday home on West Romana Street, and the Old Taxi Stand at 417 West Belmont could have been restored and redeveloped with common sense standards and local incentives for redevelopment in place.
Stressing the urgency of this issue, at least one century-old structure has been illegally demolished already this year within a historic neighborhood. In April 2018, the owner of a century-old home at 1107 E Cervantes Street was demolished without any permits.
If a building is found to have been demolished illegally, under this proposed ordinance, the City should also impose penalties, including monetary fines and a five-year construction moratorium on the site.
What is the Demolition Notification Ordinance?
- The Demolition Notification Ordinance would be a citywide policy that requires public disclosure of demolitions planned for structures older than sixty years of age.
What does it mean for me?
The Demolition Notification Ordinance can be an important preservation tool for unprotected historic buildings:
- Community members are empowered to prevent surprise demolitions.
- On-site, public postings help ensure a transparent notification process.
- The thirty-day notification window creates an opportunity to negotiate preservation alternatives and pursue stronger protections, including local landmark nomination.