A dispute over the future of the unique Mahncke Park neighborhood off Broadway just north of downtown is resulting in mounting public pressure over restrictions on property which are contained in the city's Unified Development Code, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
Section 35-611 of the Historic Preservation Division of the UDC states that private property which has been granted historic status will face restrictions.
The section says anything from changes in the color of the home to other 'exterior alterations' may have to be approved by a Historic Preservation Officer. Under the restrictions, painting, installation of new structures, and eliminating existing portions of the home are covered, and require permits and approval, and there is also a requirement for 'ordinary repair and maintenance' to be 'approve administratively.'
Dr. Gary Cox, who lives in the Mahncke Park neighborhood, says these requirement are onerous and amount to an unconstitutional 'taking' of private property without due process or compensation.
"Before we make any changes to the exterior, to the landscape, to the hardscape, you have to go down and pay a fee, submit the application, show them your plans, and have someone else make those decisions for you," he said.
City officials say the restrictions are nothing that most homeowners associations don't require, and say people who own historic homes have an obligation to help preserve San Antonio’s heritage.
Mahncke Park, which dates from the 1890s, is seen as one of the leading examples in the South of the American architectural style known as 'Cottage Tudor.' The park was laid out in the 1890s and named for turn of the 20th Century San Antonio Parks Commissioner Ludwig Mahncke, who, among other accomplishments, is credited with convincing his friend George Breckenridge to donate his homestead to the city to become Breckenridge Park. Many of the homes the surround Mahncke Park were built from the 1920s to 1950s, although some are newer.
But Cox says what the city is proposing to do in the area amounts to theft of property rights.
"Even if you plant a tree and put it in the wrong place, they can make you take it out and plant it and relocated it," he said. "It's not really your decision any more."
The city says most declarations of historic neighborhoods are made on the request of the people who live in the area. But Cox says only 30% of a neighborhood's homeowners can petition for historic designation, which is 'government overreach and the will of a minority of residents."
He says even standard 'Saturday afternoon' projects around the house and yard would result in a $500 fine, and a city order that what the homeowner did has to be 'undone.'