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Following Minor Revisions By Heritage Commission, Hardship Clause Sent On To Aldermen

Addressing an issue it has been considering for several months, the Ste. Genevieve Heritage Commission voted to recommend approval of an addition to the city’s historic preservation ordinance to the Board of Aldermen that would give residents facing financial hardships some leeway in repairing their homes.

The Heritage Commission had a 40-minute work session prior to its regular January 27 meeting to iron out details. David Bova, community development administrator, had drafted a proposed hardship clause for the commission to consider. The group ended up accepting it with three minor changes.

Much of the debate during the work session involved where to draw the line for qualifying homeowners. Bova had recommended federal “low income” levels, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

For a family of four, an income of $51,850 or below would qualify. For an single individual, $36,300 would be the cutoff point for “low income.”

“Very low income” would be individuals making $22,700 or less, while “extremely low income” would be in the $13,000 range and below.

Frank Myers suggested going with “low,” while fellow members LeeAnn Waldvogel and Martha Patterson suggested “very low.” Gary Smith, Ward 1 alderman and liaison to the group, said he felt “very low” was “comfortable” to him.

“The low doesn’t look that low to me,” Smith said. He later added that, “When I think of low, I think of an elderly person making $1,000 or $2,000 a month on Social Security.”

It was eventually agreed to go with “very low,” or $22,700 for an individual.

Smith also convinced the commission to remove education debt as a factor. The proposed addition originally contained a sentence that read, “in addition to income, extraordinary medical or educational expenses may also be considered.”

It was intended to give some wiggle room in making repairs to those who have medical bills or student loans to pay. Smith, however, argued that the student loans were results of conscious decisions, unlike the medical expenses. …

It was also agreed to change a phrase that said the commission has the “power to vary or modify adherence” to guidelines. It was amended to read “shall have the option to vary or modify.” …

The additions to the historic preservation ordinances will be recommended to the Board of Aldermen as Bova had presented, other than “low” being replaced by “very low” income, “or educational” expenses being removed and  “shall have the power” changed to “shall have the option.”

See the complete story in the February 5 edition of the Herald.

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