Published in December 18, 2019 Edition of the Lexington News
In last week’s column we discussed the strong character of community that is present in Lexington. Community is the foundation from which everything else flows. It encompasses not only the people, schools and businesses of Lexington but also the physical appearance. Part and parcel to strong community is the upkeep of the homes and buildings that make up Lexington. As we all know Lexington is home to a remarkable collection of architectural beauties that few other communities in Missouri can boast of. It is not an overstatement to say that our unique collection of Greek Revival, Second Empire, Italianate, Victorian, Four Square as well as Arts & Crafts homes and downtown buildings is likely the most diverse west of the Mississippi. The Battle of Lexington State Historic Site combined with our gorgeous Greek Revival Lafayette County Courthouse draws visitors from far and wide. The citizens of Lexington have much to be proud of!
Unfortunately, we have a number of buildings and homes within Lexington that are in seriously deteriorating condition. It is becoming increasingly noticeable to both residents and visitors that we must get serious about maintaining these historical treasures that are such an important part of the character of Lexington. Once a building comes down from lack of maintenance it is gone to us forever. The building can never be duplicated as the construction techniques are from a bygone era and the cost would be completely prohibitive.
The City of Lexington has made the commitment to adhere to International Building Codes by having a full time, dedicated Building Official/Codes Enforcement Department. The Building Official oversees all construction (both new construction & renovations) to ensure the ongoing safety of homes and businesses. Lexington became a Certified Local Government (CLG) in 2000 with the State of Missouri. This is a legal commitment that ultimately falls under the National Park Service. This means the City of Lexington is committed to maintaining the historic character and integrity of all homes and buildings within our four Historic Districts which include Old Neighborhood District, Commercial District, Highland District and the Wentworth District. It is the job of the Lexington Historic Preservation Commission (LHPC) to preserve our historical assets.The LHPC is always working diligently behind the scenes to uphold a strong standard regarding historic building maintenance. When you own property, live or work in one of these four districts you have the honor of being the "front door" impression of our community. It is an important responsibility since home maintenance plays a critical role in property values, ability to attract new businesses and residents as well as maintaining the strong standards of our school district and police department.
The Lexington Historic Preservation Commission works hand in hand with the Building Official/Codes Enforcement Department to identify historic properties that are not meeting maintenance standards detailed in City Codes, specifically Section 29. If the property owner does not make the necessary repairs to bring their property up to City Code then citations will be issued and fines levied. A delinquent property owner will come before the Lexington Municipal Court. The fines increase significantly the longer a property owner does not make required repairs to the property. This is not the ideal situation, it would be much better if property owners would acknowledge their responsibility to both themselves and their community to simply maintain their properties in such a manner to be an asset to the community instead of a detriment. The actions of one person ultimately affect the entire town. Recently, one Lexington property owner found themselves the recipient of significant fines due to serious maintenance neglect of one of our premier historic homes. It would have so much easier to have simply maintained the property over the course of ownership and allowed the previously beautiful home to be the landmark it once was and still should be.
When a property owner inside a historic district wishes to make changes to the exterior of their home they will need to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) prior to obtaining a Building Permit. The purpose of this arrangement is to maintain the historic architectural integrity of the homes and buildings inside the four Historic Districts. Building Permits are not issued unless the COA has been obtained. The application for the COA can be obtained at City Hall. The property owner will then need to attend the next HPC meeting at City Hall Council Chambers on the third Monday of each month at 7pm to have their application for COA reviewed. The seven member commission are historic property owners and have also spent many years renovating and restoring historic properties. It is our wish to be a resource for historic property owners to make the journey of renovation a little less bumpy.
If residents have questions they can contact the Building Official/Codes Enforcement through Lexington City Hall at 660-259-4633.