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Guest Columnist John Skolfield / July 25, 2015 / Add your Comments


Editor’s Note:  John Skolfield is Managing member of Skolfield Homes, LLC, in Winter Park.

As summer morphs into fall, those of us eyeing Winter Park politics will see the hot button issue of the season come to life. I’m betting historic preservation will top the list.  Should this come to pass, we could all benefit by easing up on entrenched positions, which carry the perils of a closed mind. 


Finding Consensus – Tough Job

Many feel that any government entity deciding what one can build on their property is sacrilegious — government intrusion, to be forestalled at every opportunity.  To others, approval of the color, shape, size and mounting hardware of window shutters is a necessary control to reign in the tasteless destruction of the aesthetics of a community. Navigating the balance and finding consensus is a tough job, but it’s essential.


Government controlling our actions is present everywhere. I choose this beautiful city over a shack on the prairie with guns at the door and “don’t tread on me” nailed to the wall. 


Government Intervention – Friend or Foe?

Government control may be not a monster to be slain at every turn, but a tool that can protect our city.  Controls on floor area ratios, height limitations, pervious surface requirements, side setbacks, mandatory side wall articulation — not to mention home businesses and back yard chickens – all protect the character of our neighborhoods. These are government controls. This isn’t the Wild West.


The question of historic preservation is more one of aesthetics than it is of safety, size and mass.  At the core of this is the question: How much right do the citizens of a community, neighborhood, or street have to weigh in on what alterations can be made on individual homes?


Bad Design Slips in Like Water Under the Door

Before we shout “None!” consider this.  Would you live here if every street of homes was homogeneous, devoid of architectural interest — row upon row of bland stucco boxes?  Sure, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but bad design is present — universally accepted bad design, objectively bad design.  It slips into a community like water under a door, a minor irritant at first, ankle deep before long, and the damage is irreversible.  Bad design has a permanence about it, a blight gazed upon by hundreds, daily, for years and years.


Communities in which historic preservation is embraced thrive, home values rise.  Time and again this is borne out by the facts. 


A thriving community with rising values? Not so bad, eh?

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