By Joe Jarosz
July 2, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Chain link fences are acceptable for historic districts.
That was the verdict Friday by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission as residents of the Pendleton Heights neighborhood attempted to reopen and get another hearing on a decision made earlier this year by the commission approving a chain link fence around the the soon-to-open Scuola Vita Nuova Charter School. The commission voted 4-1 against allowing a rehearing of the case.
At the meeting, Jessica Ray and Harold Smith, both representing homeowners in the area surrounding the school in Pendleton Heights, attempted to introduce new evidence to prove that the commission acted without the input of the community’s best interest. Both pointed to the “Fencing and Wall Guidelines” adopted by the commission on June 28, 2013, as a violation of the previously approved chain link fence. Smith said schools and businesses in the neighborhood, including Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and Plaza Park, have the appropriate metal fencing required for a historic district, which Pendleton Heights is designated.
“We have a large neighborhood and I don’t know one person who is happy with your decision,” Smith told the commission. “If we let this go, it sets a precedent.”
Ray said she and other neighborhood representatives did not attend the initial commission meeting on the issues because “everything in your guidelines say no chain link fence.”
“We didn’t freak out because we didn’t think there was any way you [the commission] were going to approve chain link fencing because there’s no precedent for it,” Ray said.
Commissioner Robert Gangewere told Ray and Smith that although those are the guidelines for the commission, those are not rules they have to follow. He added the neighborhood should have made their feelings known at the initial meeting.
“A majority of the commission disagrees it was a violation,” Gangwere said. “You knew the approval was including chain link fences and it would have been helpful to me if all of this information and the feel from the neighborhood had been clearly presented at the original hearing. But for future reference, these are guidelines and not rules.”
Commissioner Patrick Bustos, the lone nay vote of the hearing, said he originally voted against the fence because he thought it was inappropriate. Bustos added he thought the new evidence was enough to reopen the hearing.
After the meeting, Smith said he disagreed with the commission’s decision. According to their rules, he added, the neighborhood didn’t deserve to be heard. When Gangwere said they weren’t following rules, but guidelines, Smith said he understands that, but when the guidelines say “inappropriate,” to him, inappropriate means not to be used or considered. He said the only option now is to bring the commission to court. Simth, however, does not believe the residents have the appropriate means to facilitate that move.
“I think according to their rules, their original decision was incorrect and most of the people in the Northeast consider it that way,” Smith said. “I think they’re full of it. There’s a lot of money behind the school and they got what they wanted.”