Because of the memories of experiences visiting the San Antonio Missions and the Riverwalk and for those restful nights dreaming about days gone by in lodgings like the Menger Hotel, the Emily Morgan, the Crockett Hotel, La Mansion del Rio, the magnificently restored St. Anthony just to name a few.

Just because of the times I felt like a time traveler when walking into El Paisano, The Gage, The Holland Hotels in West Texas.

Because of all historic structures that tell a story and distinguish a community from any other such as Galveston’s Moody Mansion and Bishop’s Palace, The Driskill in Austin, Brownsville’s Dancy Building, the iconic Kraigher House, the 19th-century Stillman House, Fernandez building, Fernandez Hide Yard. Practically all of Brownsville’s downtown. Hidalgo’s pumphouse and old town, McAllen’s Quinta Mazatlan. The list can go on and on. Could these cities share their heritage without them? Could our traveling experiences be the same without the built environment?

Nydia Tapia-Gonzales

It is because of all of this, that I share this advocacy alert.

A bill introduced in the Texas House of Representatives by Rep. John Cyrier, HB 2496 (and its companion in the Senate by Sen. Dawn Buckingham, SB 1488), would prohibit a municipality from designating a historic landmark without the property owner’s consent.

The bill was drafted and filed without any input whatsoever from the historic preservation community in the State of Texas.

It curtails the power vested in municipal governments under Sec. 211.003(b) of Texas’s Local Government Code to regulate the demolition of buildings and other structures of historical, cultural or architectural significance.

Remember that in those very rare occasions when local governments seek to designate a building as a historic landmark over the objection of the property owner, it is because the property owner wants to bulldoze the building, and the city wants to save an important and irreplaceable landmark for future generations.

The bill also makes it impossible to create meaningful and coherent local historic districts, as 100 percent owner consent for a local zoning district is almost impossible to obtain and no other form of local zoning has such a requirement.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s legal department has written a strongly-worded three-page letter to the committee outlining the repercussions of this poorly conceived bill.

HB 2496 is a clumsy legislative solution to a problem that simply does not exist and should be withdrawn.

A hearing on HB 2496 will be held by the Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee in the Texas House of Representatives this Tuesday, March 26, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. in the State Capitol, Room E1.014

Our voices need to be heard!

Contact members of the Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee before the hearing on Tuesday.

Let committee members know that HB 2496 should be withdrawn because it attempts to solve a problem that doesn’t exist and prevents local governments from regulating the demolition of historically, culturally and architecturally significant buildings.

Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee:

Rep. John Cyrier (Chair and Bill Author): 512-463-0682; [email protected]

Rep. Armando Martinez (Vice Chair): 512-463-0530; [email protected]

Rep. John Bucy, III: 512-463-0696; [email protected]

Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins: 512-463-0708; [email protected]

Rep. Justin Holland: 512-463-0484; [email protected]

Rep. Jarvis Johnson: 512-463-0554; [email protected]

Rep. Kyle Kacal: 512-463-0412; [email protected]

Rep. Geanie Morrison: 512-463-0456; [email protected]

Rep. Steve Toth: 512-463-0797; [email protected]

I am a proud member of the Preservation Texas board of directors and I invite everybody to protect your community’s historic buildings. I encourage you to seek solutions to restore and rehabilitate them. Leave demolition options out unless extremely necessary. It is not a matter of whether we like a particular building or not. It is a matter of preserving our heritage and that should be important to all.

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Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above op-ed shows a listed building on E. Charles Street in downtown Brownsville, Texas. The lot was purchased by former state Rep. J.T. Canales of Brownsville in 1911. He built a home on it in 1913.