After a lengthy discussion Friday afternoon, the Pawhuska City Council tabled a motion to terminate the Historic District Commission to give city councilors an opportunity to study the issue further.
The City Council chambers was packed to capacity where Mayor Mark Buchanan began the discussion to disband the Historic District Commission and possibly start from scratch.
Buchanan said city ordinance shows that a member of the City Council should sit on the commission, something that has not been done. Additionally, Buchanan said he felt the City Council moved hastily to reform the Commission after new economic booms began occurring in downtown.
“I think the best thing to do would be to scrap it and start all over,” Buchanan said. “I don’t want to say that we don’t need some help in that area, but I think it would be better to just start from ground zero.”
Ward 1 City Councilor Roger Taylor said his problem with the Historic District Commission is that the model seems outdated to him.
“In 1922, this was the most modern town around here and no one was worried about historical,” Taylor said. “In 1955, they were so busy they didn’t care about who put what sign or whatever up. If we want business to come in now, we can’t keep throwing hurdles to them as to what they can do and what they can’t do. I don’t think historical is going to make us where we want to be. I’d like to go to 2025 and not be stuck in 1925.”
Ward 2 City Councilor Steve Holcombe disagreed with Taylor.
“I think having a historic district is critical to the development of this town, especially downtown,” Holcombe said. “I think that is being overlooked. If someone is going to buy downtown, they are going to be on notice that there are codes they have to apply to the design of their building.”
The majority of the public crowd at the meeting agreed with Holcombe’s assessment.
Bruce Carter is the chair of the Historic District Commission and a downtown business owner. He said with the influx of tourists to Pawhuska, they all say coming to the downtown area is like looking at a piece of Americana.
“We are able to give them a historic feel of what Pawhuska is like from the boom days to now,” Carter said. “Having the ability to maintain a historic look and feel of our buildings is critical. In all honesty, we have no concerns about what happens inside the buildings, as long as the facade of the buildings remain. You go to places like Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and the draw there is the historic nature of their buildings. The same applies here in Pawhuska.”
Ladd Drummond, who has purchased several buildings along Kihekah and remodeled them, said he appreciates the help of the Historic District Commission, but it did add a level of complexity to the designs of things like balconies on his downtown buildings.
“I didn’t do any historical tax credits on all the things we’ve been doing because I didn’t want to limit what I could do to my buildings,” Drummond said. “I had the opportunity to build them in the way I felt best and didn’t want to be held back by other opportunities.
“I guess my whole since on the matter is we’re just kind of adding red tape, sometimes where we don’t need to add red tape. We are a small town and I feel like we can all work together. We all have the same common goals, and sometimes it can be a little simpler when we don’t have to jump through that extra hurdle. But the Committee was great and they worked with us. We were able to talk it out, and I appreciate it.”
Following the discussion, the Pawhuska City Council tabled any action on the Historic District Committee until additional options can be explored and more community feedback is received.