Dion: Despite guidelines, DDP supporting buildings’ demolitions


Lorraine J. Dion is a member of The Friends of Old Dover.

On Monday evening, I attended the city of Dover Planning Commission meeting to give public comment on an item listed on the agenda — an appeal by the Downtown Dover Partnership to overturn the May 16 Historic District Commission decision that denied the partnership’s requests to demolish the structure at 148 S. Bradford St. and also to demolish a structure at 150 S. Bradford St.

During the meeting, the city of Dover planner told the attending public that, due to the Planning & Inspection Department staff’s interpretation of the zoning code regarding appeals to the Planning Commission, public comment would not be permitted. Only the applicant of the appeal, and the organization’s representatives, would be permitted to speak.

The Planning Commission voted 4-2 in favor of both of the appeals, consequently overturning the Historic District Commission’s decision, meaning the two structures will be demolished.

Because I — along with more than 20 members of The Friends of Old Dover, as well as other interested Dover citizens — were in attendance ready to speak in support of upholding the Historic District Commission decision but were unable to do so, I would like to give my public comment here as an Opinion, if I may:

My name is Lorraine J. Dion. I am a former director of Main Street Dover. I’ve also served as the director of several successful Main Street organizations in Delaware and was the first nationally certified Main Street manager in the state of Delaware.

I only tell you this so you understand that, tonight, I am here speaking as a Main Street professional, as well as a member of The Friends of Old Dover.

The Downtown Dover Partnership is an accredited Main Street organization.

This means that the DDP is part of Main Street America’s National Main Street Center.

The National Main Street Center was founded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and its core is historic preservation-based economic development.

Since the DDP is an accredited Main Street organization, it is required to adhere to the specific principles and standards of the National Main Street Center.

The DDP actually mentions “the guiding principles of the National Main Street program” in its mission statement.

The National Main Street Center states that the most important of its guiding principles is historic preservation and that local Main Street organizations (which the DDP is one) must adhere to this guiding principle.

One of the National Main Street Center’s required accreditation standards is that a local organization must have a historic preservation ethic.

This required standard reads: “Historic preservation is central to the main street program’s purpose and is what makes historic and traditional commercial districts authentic places.”

It continues: “Historic preservation means saving, rehabilitating and finding new uses for historic buildings.”

For a local Main Street organization to maintain its accreditation status, it is also required to adhere to the following guideline: “When faced with potential demolition of a historic or traditional building within the designated main street district, the local main street program (in this case, the DDP) must actively work to prevent its demolition.”

By requesting that the Planning Commission overturn the Historic District Commission decision and thereby permit the demolition of these two historical structures, 148 and 150 S. Bradford St., the Downtown Dover Partnership is violating the very principles and standards that the National Main Street Center requires it to follow to maintain its accreditation status.

As an accredited Main Street organization, the partnership is to be an advocate for historic preservation, not a destroyer of it.

At its public workshop last week, the DDP presented two alternatives to the demolition of these structures, yet here we are — the group still has chosen to proceed with an appeal and to seek approval to demolish the two properties anyway.

The Downtown Dover Partnership needs to retain these two historical, traditional buildings by bringing an acceptable alternative to the table — one that our downtown historic commercial district deserves and one that the citizens of Dover can be proud of.

Sadly, this won’t happen. By a Planning Commission vote of 4-2, two more historical structures are gone, and Dover’s past continues to vanish.

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at civiltalk@iniusa.org.

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