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Regulation madness: Minnesota homeowners fight for the right to make repairs on their own homes

In this Wednesday, May 18, 2016, photo, people approach an entrance to a Home Depot store location in Bellingham, Mass. Home Depot reports financial results Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Residents in a Minneapolis neighborhood are fighting back against a "historic neighborhood" designation that prevents them from making necessary repairs to their homes.

The city's Historic Preservation Commission voted last April to designate the Homewood area of northern Minneapolis as a local historic district, according to WCCO-TV. The commission did not even explain to residents why the neighborhood was being designated as a "historic district," although one resident believes it likely has to do with the area's history as a Jewish neighborhood. With that proposed designation came a loss of property rights the residents didn't see coming.

Residents now have to clear any exterior repairs with the Historic Preservation Commission, and they say the commission isn't exactly welcoming  their requests. Megan Spurlin, who lives in the neighborhood with her husband and their twin boys, Charlie and Harper, said even though her boys tested positive for lead poisoning over the Thanksgiving holiday because of the conditions of the home, she is still waiting to receive an answer from the commission to let her know whether she can eliminate the health hazard to her children.

"We tested their lead levels right when we moved, and around Thanksgiving we found out both of them had lead poisoning," Spurlin told reporters. "We basically tried to get lead abatement and windows replaced on the house, and we’re still waiting to hear whether they’ll allow that or not."

Instead of allowing Spurlin, as the property owner, to choose which lead abatement protocol she determined best for her family, she was given a set of specific repair guidelines that were not even close to being within her family's budget.

"I think it’s morally wrong that the Historic Preservation Commission has taken the architectural design of our house and our windows, and put that as precedence over my children’s health," she said.

Residents said they are troubled by the city's ability to take away their property rights without even taking the community's collective opinion into consideration.

"People are concerned about our property rights being taken away without the voice of the community being heard," said resident Joe Fargione.

Some of the residents felt so aggrieved by this historic designation placed upon them that they gathered together signatures of other residents who were not happy with the designation. Out of 241 residents in the area, 161 signed the petition opposing the historical status.

These homeowners are just the latest who have found that making basic modifications and repairs to their own property is increasingly difficult in a world in which homeowners associations and city zoning authorities increasingly assert the right to control what happens on a person’s private property.




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