Proposed Preservation Modernization Bill – HB5232 – Suspended!

Proposed Preservation Modernization Bill – HB5232 – Suspended!

The Michigan Historic Preservation Network (and the Heritage Hill Association) thanks you for your continued opposition to HB 5232 (and SB 720). As you know, in January, HB 5232 was assigned to the Local Government Committee, chaired by Rep. Lee Chatfield (House District 107). Representative Chatfield confirmed in a letter to constituents that although he worked “exceedingly hard to strike a balance with this legislation, …I have been unable to adequately satisfy many of the concerns of my constituents.” He has decided to “indefinitely suspend consideration of HB 5232 and the conversation of reform to the Michigan Historic Preservation Act.”

This is a big victory for historic preservation in Michigan, but we all need to remain cautious and vigilant.  HB 5232 will not be on the Local Government committee agenda anytime soon, but the bill may be reassigned to another committee and we may need to activate quickly all over again. Thanks to each and every one of you all over the state who has spoken and written against this bill, and as we hear more information, we will definitely share it with all of you. Congratulations and thank you!


The HIstory:

As of April 20, 2016

RE:       HB 5232 – Proposed Historic Preservation Modernization Bill

From: Heritage Hill Association Board of Directors, Grand Rapids, Michigan


The Heritage Hill Association, the neighborhood association of one of the largest historic districts in the State of Michigan, remains opposed to the proposed Historic Preservation Modernization Bill despite changes made to the proposed bill that culminate in its sixth draft form. The current law, Local Historic Districts Act PA 169 of 1970, has functioned well for 46 years to protect and preserve our historic resources. We believe the draft HB 5232 will serve to weaken a law that is not in need of amending in the following ways:

Draft HB 5232 states that the standards for rehabilitation set forth by the Secretary of the Interior used nationwide for historic commission decisions should be “consulted” rather than “required”.  It is the adherence to the Secretary of the Interior standards that protects the investments made to historic properties and preserves the historical integrity of the district overall. The vague language in the bill pertaining to commission review of projects creates uncertainty and could result in the eventual loss of a district’s standing as a federally registered historic district.

Draft HB 5232 changes the appeals process from an independent state panel of historic district experts to a local appeals board with little to no expertise in historic property renovations. A local appeals board could politicize the decision process whereas the State panel of experts renders objective decisions without local partisan issues interfering with the decision making process.

Draft HB 5232 creates obstacles to the process for historical designation that could jeopardize a community’s ability to effect an emergency moratorium on demolition of historic resources. The bill requires precise boundaries of a proposed historic district ahead of any research which is counter-productive as boundaries are inevitably redrawn to reflect the research.  The bill requires a re-start of the process when proposed boundaries are changed including re-notifying property owners. This re-process is inefficient and will prove costly to municipalities.

The Local Historic Districts Act 169 of 1970 stands as one of the most successful laws ever enacted in terms of community investment and revitalization of valuable historic resources. The Heritage Hill Historic District contains 1,300 structures and over 4,000 households; one if not the largest district in the State of Michigan. We have seen no evidence of significant outcry requesting modifications to this law. We stand opposed to changing a law that has a great history of success.

On behalf of the Heritage Hill Association Board of Directors,

Jim Payne, President, Heritage Hill Association


Evolution of the changes to the initial proposed bill:

As of March 22, 2016: 

The Preservation Modernization bill is still alive but is being revised. It is taking a spring break currently along with the State Legislature. The House returns the week of April 11. The Senate version of the bill will mirror whatever the House bill becomes. It remains in committee. Stay tuned for future updates.

February 26, 2016:

Many have been wondering where things stand regarding the proposed HB5232 Preservation Modernization Act, so I thought I would send an update from what I have heard thus far.

The authors of the Bill reportedly did not anticipate the amount of opposition and disappointment their Bill has caused.  The amount of emails and phone calls have been eye opening.  Rep Chris Afendoulis and Senator MacGregor remain committed to push some kind of a “modernization” Bill forward although the opposition has opened the door to forming a working group to review the proposal before a final bill is voted on.

Representatives from Grand Rapids along with representatives from other cities, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHNP) and historic districts across the State have been working hard to stop the Bill or at least have it drastically revised. The “sunset provision” which would require Historic District status to expire after ten years and be renewed by a 2/3’s vote of the entire city has been removed from the Bill because it was not a legal provision.

The authors of the proposed bill remain committed to removing restrictions for using alternative materials on historic homes despite being informed that throwing over the Secretary of Interior Standards, which have been in effect nationwide for over 50 years, could lead to the district being removed from the National Register. This would forfeit available federal historic tax credits. To many property owners in Heritage Hill and other Historic Districts across the state, this would be an infringement of our property rights, as these were the rules when we purchased and invested in our properties. A change in the rules could allow alterations and or developments that diminish the authenticity of the architecture and the aesthetic historic charm of our neighborhoods.

If this is something you agree with, I would urge you to contact the attached legislators and Governor with your opinion. Even if you have contacted representatives regarding this Bill but did not express an opinion that the Bill would be an infringement of your personal property rights, I would urge you to do so again. Please do it ASAP.

Thank You! Jim Payne, President, Heritage Hill Association

​FYI – Here is a link to MLive article outlining the origins of this proposed legislation.

How can you support the efforts to oppose HB 5232/SB 720? Contact by phone, email, or in person:

Representative Chris Afendoulis (Primary Sponsor of Bill): 855-347-8073:

Senator Peter MacGregor (Primary Sponsor of SB 720); 855-347-8028;

Governor Snyder; 517-335-7858;

Senator Dave Hildenbrand;



RE:  Bills HB 5232 & SB720, Historic Preservation Modernization Act

From: Heritage Hill Neighborhood Association Board of Directors

The Heritage Hill Historic District was designated an historic district in 1971. It is the result of local property owners taking action to save their homes from the ‘urban renewal’ plans that threatened the existence of these homes and this neighborhood. The Heritage Hill Association, which represents these neighbors’ has long been committed to working collaboratively with its elected local and state officials as well as the City of Grand Rapids in order to protect the personal rights of all our residents and property values of our local property owners.

HB5232 & SB720, the Historic Preservation Modernization Act proposed by Representative Afendoulis and Senator McGregor purports to enhance the personal property rights of residents in historic districts, when in actuality it is precisely the historic district status that protected both the personal rights of residents through local control and significantly increased the property values of these homes.

The Heritage Hill Association which represents the oldest and one of the largest historic districts in the state of Michigan, was not consulted in the formulation of this bill and we wonder what historic preservation organizations were consulted? Because this bill is being moved so quickly, there has been no opportunity to learn more about the concerns the bill sponsors say they are responding to.

We believe that HB5232 & SB720 jeopardize property owners’ investments in historic districts by subjecting districts to a citywide renewal vote every ten years. This would allow the vote of residents outside of a historic district to determine if that district would be allowed to continue to exist. This provision actually takes away local control – control by neighborhood residents that these historic districts have always enjoyed. We understand that this provision is no longer being considered but we must state our opposition to this proposal in case it has not formally been removed.

There are other significant issues with this bill that are cause for alarm.  HB 5232 jeopardizes property owners’ rights by allowing changes to historic neighborhoods that are not in line with the Department of Interior guidelines. This jeopardizes Heritage Hill’s National designation and can result in the loss of tax credits for historic repairs on income producing properties. Another is allowing decisions regarding historic repairs to be based on politics. PA 169 has a proven track record of protecting Michigan’s historic treasures and it has fostered millions of private investment dollars. This highly successful public act works and thousands of property owners have benefited from the protection it provides.

We challenge and oppose changes to PA 169. We will work to protect the enormous economic of impact of preservation and the personal property rights of our residents

Jim Payne, President – Heritage Hill Neighborhood Association


The following is an excellent response to the rationale being promoted by the bill’s sponsor.

RebeccaHoffman response3-8-16