A recently proposed bill to the General Assembly has the state’s preservation community up in arms, claiming that the measure will devastate protections for historic buildings. The preservationists are painting themselves as the underdog – the David to the Goliath of insensitive developers and municipal officials bent on sacrificing historic buildings at the altar of economic development.
Anyone familiar with the state’s historic preservation process knows that it is excruciatingly time-consuming, exorbitantly costly and requires large commitments of taxpayer resources. In Windham’s case, a developer seeks to use private funds to raze two “Historic,” yet badly deteriorated buildings on Main Street and create a 145-unit market-rate housing development with ground floor retail – an absolute game-changer for the downtown’s economic future.
The preservation community, led by its Goliaths, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the Trust for Historic Preservation, oppose the plan. HB6552 does not imply that Opportunity Zones and historic preservation can never work in tandem. As many Connecticut communities are looking to write the next chapter in their history, it is critical the historic preservation process be flexible enough to accommodate necessary exceptions within the new Opportunity Zones.