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Historic Preservation Commission claims Butte officials don't respect ordinance

Butte Preservation
Posted at 1:01 PM, Sep 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-08 15:11:10-04

BUTTE - Members of the Historic Preservation Commission feel they are being left out of important decisions concerning historic buildings in Uptown Butte.

"The letter that was sent to the Council of Commissioners was kind of a — supposed to be a wake-up call to Butte-Silver Bow commissioners and to staff," said Mitzi Rossillon.

Rossillon — the vice-chair of the Historic Preservation Commission — says provisions of the historic preservation ordinance have not been considered when already-planned projects are presented at the last minute.

"When it’s left to the last minute then there is no opportunity to have a meaningful relationship with other departments or a meaningful discussion on any projects," said Rossillon.

The department in question is the Urban Revitalization Agency (URA). The commission claims the URA’s decision to move forward with the design for 56 East Mercury Street went against what the commission advised. The city disagrees.

"The URA acted completely within their rights and authority, and I do believe good design review was done and I do believe the end product is going to be compatible with our historic district," said Karen Byrnes, community development director.

On Jan. 11, Byrnes, acting as the historic preservation officer, presented exterior designs for 56 East Mercury to the Historic Preservation Commission. It was discussed at length and the commission approved the design but requested that a ghost sign painted onto bricks of the back wall be saved.

"The bricks could not be saved. There was a crack in the foundation two inches thick — went all the way through the foundation. It was cracked in multiple places, those bricks had to come down." said Byrnes.

Byrnes says the Historic Preservation Commission chair rejected a follow-up discussion in February and on July 12, the URA voted to fund 25% of the exterior repair to the building.

Rossillon says she feels this has become a pattern with large projects in Uptown Butte and wants the Historic Preservation Commission to get the respect it deserves.

"We want equal consideration with all the citizens' boards," she said.

The Historic Preservation Commission wants the issue addressed in front of the council of commissioners.