At least three members of Hillsboro City Council indicated Monday they want to disband a 20-year-old board that Hillsboro’s mayor says is largely responsible for the improved appearance of the uptown area.
Tracy Aranyos, Claudia Klein and Ann Morris all voted Monday against approving the names submitted by Mayor Drew Hastings as members of the city’s Design Review Board, although enough other council members – Dick Donley, Justin Harsha, Bill Alexander and Rebecca Wilkin – voted to confirm them after council President Lee Koogler strongly encouraged council to do so.
Earlier in the meeting, Mary Todd Hardeman, chair of the Design Review Board, addressed council and discussed why she believes the board, established in 1995, is an asset to the city. She offered to work with council and invited members to attend review board meetings.
But when Hardeman finished her remarks, Aranyos said, “I don’t feel there’s a need for the Design Review Board.” She said people are able to see the city regulations on the website, and “I feel like we’re making things harder.” She said the city is “doing the same thing twice.”
But Hardeman said “not everything is listed” online.
The Design Review Board was established to ensure that structural changes in Hillsboro’s historic uptown district are appropriate to maintain the character of the area.
After Aranyos’ remarks, Koogler placed the Design Review Board matter into two committees – Property, Maintenance and Restoration, and Community Enhancement – for study in regard to its future.
Later, when Hastings submitted names of the members of the board for council’s approval, Koogler said, “I don’t do this very often,” and proceeded to encourage council to ratify the names so there would be no question that any actions taken by the board were legitimate while the board’s fate is being reviewed. Law Director Fred Beery agreed with Koogler.
The board’s members are Hastings, Hardeman, Chad Shelton and Avery Applegate. There is one vacancy on the board. By ordinance, appointments to the board are made by the mayor and approved by council. Members are supposed to be property owners and business owners in the uptown district, and a member from the historical society.
Harsha said he agreed with Koogler and Beery, adding, “I have no quarrel with any names on this list.” Alexander said that while he was in favor of maintaining the board, he suggested council should examine whether any members represent a conflict of interest. Koogler said that question could also be examined by the committees that will consider the board’s future.
After the meeting, Klein, Aranyos and Morris said their “no” votes were not in opposition to the names presented for approval, but instead represented their belief that the board should be disbanded, with council taking over its duties.
“It’s repetitive,” said Aranyos.
Hastings said later he does not understand why some on council seem opposed to the Design Review Board.
“This issue came out of left field,” said the mayor. “Why they would seek to dismantle the entity that’s responsible for keeping our historic Hillsboro intact and our uptown revitalization efforts going is beyond me.”
Hastings said, “When we have serious heroin and drug trafficking problems to control, why someone would focus on something as mundane as this is misguided thinking.”
Hastings said he thinks some on council are broaching territory reserved for the administrative branch of city government.
“It’s not their function to get in the weeds and administer. That’s why we’re administrative and they’re legislative,” he said.
Hastings said the Design Review Board, which he made more active since taking office, is largely responsible for the improved appearance of the uptown district by making sure guidelines are followed, the historic flavor of the district is maintained and businesses are not permitted to place strobe lights or other items that would violate the historic character of uptown Hillsboro.
“The fact we’ve had a visibly improved uptown has had a ripple effect throughout this city,” said Hastings.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.