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Manatee's Historic Preservation is a Worthy Work in Progress


BRADENTON -- William Murtagh, wrote in Keeping Time: The History and Theory of Preservation in America, "It has been said that, at it's best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future." That's what's on the menu for today. Allow me to share with you part of Manatee County's past that is fortunately going to stick around long enough to enrich our future.

Chips Shore, Cathy Slusser and John Barnott are part of Manatee County's government. Chips Shore is the County Clerk of the District Court, Cathy Slusser is from the Historical Resource Department and John Barnott is the Director at our Building and Development Services Department. All are very valuable to the county and larger than their titles. You can see them in their office, in the field, and often in front of the county commissioners reviewing their latest projects.

Last Tuesday they attended the Manatee Board of County Commissioner workshop with a very special package. They came dragging our past into our now, in order to show just how much we'll need it in the future. They called it Manatee County's Historic Preservation Ordinance, and they spelled-out just why it was important.

Slusser's presentation described the cultural identity that is conveyed through architectural eras, displayed the social character seen in community buildings, and explained the economic impacts and benefits gained through preservation investment. She explained how conservation and education can produce smart growth and wooed everyone with a visual stroll through the neighborhoods of past design. 

She explained how Manatee has held on to some of its older neighborhoods, and how newcomers and natives alike associate these finely crafted structures with a life of leisure and delight. There is a certain stature seen in historical buildings that speaks of the achievements as well as of style, thus translating a tangible link. 

In Slusser's presentation, "Preserving our Past for our Future" the economics, education, conservation and benefits were all covered. There is also a section on the benefits of becoming a Certified Local Government (CLG) and what that offers to further the success of a preservation program.

John Barnott can turn all of the keys that put those properties on track that have somehow escaped being recognized as a preservation prospect. The winds of progress have blown many a historical building off the main road, but Barnott has the cure. He is developing a historical register and listing every qualifying building in the county to be recognized when the said property is put into a county computer. He says that "if someone goes to file a permit to demolish, or add additional construction, a flag will come up that will let us know." 

Barnott wants to register all historical properties within the county and will start putting the registry together now. He also wants to create a matrix to allow some approvals to be performed by staff or at the administrative level, when there is really no need to go before the commission. He added that he intends to "streamline the process."

Barnott sees becoming a CLG, offers avenues of assistance and protection to further assist historic preservation, and advised the county to start going through the steps. 

R.B Chips Shore weighed in with a big thanks to the commissioners and staff. He said that one of the historical houses on the registry was a house he was born in, and that this ordinance meant a lot to him. Shore said that he'd worked for years to see this happen and recently when talking with a representative who works with historical communities, she told him that Manatee County is further ahead in preservation than any other county she had ever worked with. He added, "you can't put a price on what we are doing"

He's right and when I hear someone complain about government employees, I just know they don't have a Chips Shore, a John Barnott or a Cathy Slusser working on the taxpayer payroll.  

History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.

Alexis de Tocqeville, 1856


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