Residents speak against demolition

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By Brad Bowman

City residents attended, a tense yet civil, Eminence City Council meeting with concerns of preservation and progress in their town.

Eric Whisman, education and outreach coordinator for Preservation Kentucky, and Lance Minnis, Eminence resident and financial advisor, asked the council to request a 90-day stay of demolition for the Eminence Deposit Bank and the former Kings Auto Parts buildings that are on the National Historic Registry.

Minnis told the council that many of the residents present had met previously at the Henry County Library in February to discuss two things that had been lumped together.

“Two issues have been lumped together and they are two separate things,” Minnis said. “The fade of the historic buildings in downtown Eminence, and a related but separate topic, is the ongoing economic plans for the city of Eminence.”

Whisman stressed the aim of Preservation Kentucky and Minnis’ purpose for being put on the council’s agenda.

“I wanted to express here tonight that we are not antidevelopment or antigrowth. We are realistic.  We realize growth needs to happen and you need modern amenities,” Whisman said. “What we try to help with is how to develop communities while keeping the historic fabric and historic buildings intact.”

Whisman explained that out of the 28 buildings on Eminence’s historic business district seven have been demolished. Whisman said that the city could lose its historic registry status with the state if the four buildings within the Main Street and Broadway block were demolished.

“It’s not too late yet,” Whisman said. “CVS and McDonald’s both have made agreements with the registry to compliment other cities’ historic fabric. If they are asked by the city or the city council they are flexible.”

Whisman said state officials looked negatively at proposed demolition of the bank building, which received a $10,500 façade grant in 2005, as a waste of resources. He explained that historic businesses and properties within the district could receive tax credits up to 40 percent and the historic businesses were an incubator.

Eminence Mayor Drane Stephens said he tried with business owners last spring to renovate the historic buildings if they were offered a 100 percent reimbursement.

“No one was interested and I was astounded,” Stephens said. “I want that (renovation and clean up of downtown) for our town. We all want that, but the owners now or at that time didn’t have the money.”

Stephens emphasized that he and the council members wanted to work in the future with Whisman and Minnis toward achieving their goals and hoped the discourse for preservation would be productive and civil.

Minnis suggested the council approach CVS instead of the developer.

“We need to ask CVS and not the developer. CVS is the one with the agreement (flexibility agreement with the historic registry),” Minnis said. “But they may not do it on their own unless they are asked.”

Joe Yates, New Castle City Attorney and Eminence resident, said he agreed with Minnis and Whisman.

“I’m cynical when it comes to saving these buildings. It would somehow be great if that happened,” Yates said. “I think if the council agreed to ask the developers if they would consider it would be great. What happens in the future is important. I would ask my city council to make the call instead of CVS (on historic preservation). What happens in the future is what I am talking about. What if McDonald’s comes in here and in 2015 Chat-n-Nibble sits vacant. Are you going to tear down the old lodge building? Look at preservation ordinance, Drane, that is all I am asking.”

Yates emphasized the preservation done the right way is economic development.

The mayor agreed the council would. Stephens asked if anyone wanted to make a motion for asking the developers to make a stay and no motion was made.