The Pensacola City Council approved a six month moratorium on the demolition of historic structures Thursday evening. The measure was taken in order to allow time for the city’s planning board to determine an appropriate process through which such properties can be considered for demolition.
“This is not a stranglehold at all on development or redevelopment,” explained Councilman Brian Spencer. “This is pressing the pause button on one of America’s most historic cities.”
Spencer initiated the moratorium concept in the midst of a community debate concerning demotions of structures that might hold historical significance. That conversation boiled over in the heat of summer, when a house built by John Sunday, a prominent turn-of-the-century African American politician and businessman, was torn down to make way for townhomes.
Several council members expressed concerns with the moratorium concept. Councilman Andy Terhaar questioned the need to halt demolitions during the planning board’s assessment process. And President Charles Bare also took issue with the fact that the moratorium would only apply to properties that lie outside the city’s historic districts, which already enjoy some amount of protection.
“I just don’t think we should hold up people when we don’t have a good process,” said Bare.
The council ended up approving the moratorium on a 6-2 vote, with an amendment stipulating that structures deemed unsafe — such as those damaged in natural disasters — could be demolished. The planning board has already begun its process of hammering out safeguards for properties considered to have historic value.