Guidelines Would Help New Owners Appreciate Island History
To the Editor:
I am writing in support of establishing two historic districts in downtown Mackinac Island.
I have been a summer resident and occasional yeararound resident for 54 years; I came to Mackinac when my father, Eugene T. Petersen, was hired by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission to create an historic restoration program at Mackinac State Historic Parks. My family owns property on Mission Street in the downtown area.
Having literally grown up living in the buildings in Fort Mackinac, I have seen how preservation of Mackinac’s history touches the lives of both the residents of Mackinac and our thousands of visitors each year. I believe that Mackinac has a unique quality in its combination of natural beauty and historic significance that we have a responsibility to protect. Mackinac is cherished not just by our residents, but by people all over Michigan and far beyond. Effective stewardship of these historic treasures is important.
While many business owners in the proposed historic districts have certainly succeeded at balancing historic integrity with commercial success, my concern lies more with newcomers to the island who may not understand or appreciate the unique value to the island and the nation of our living historic heritage.
The recent heartbreaking loss of McNally cottage drives home the importance of creating guidelines to help protect the remaining historic structures. The many letters to the editor of the Mackinac Island Town Crier express both the visitors’ and the residents’ dismay at the lack of protection available to the buildings in the downtown area. I understand and appreciate the concerns expressed by multi-generation business owners who worry about maintaining their property under historic district guidelines, but I believe further information about the many federal and state tax advantages available to them and an understanding of the flexibility within the guidelines themselves will be beneficial. Furthermore, I would encourage the development of community based support for multigeneration businesses.
Historic district guidelines would bring a consistency to the process of considering issues of development. As is true in many small towns, the decisions often become political. It should be a relief to those responsible for guiding the development that there is a fair and clear set of rules to follow for everyone.
In addition, it is essential to consider these points:
It is important to keep Mackinac authentic in an increasingly artificial world. Local businesses currently have a unique competitive advantage against cookie-cutter tourist destinations. We want to ensure an ongoing value for future generations of business owners. In short, Mackinac is an authentic village, not a reconstructed one, and maintaining this integrity is good for business.
With respect to prices and property values, the rising tide created by historic districts allows business and property owners alike to reap greater economic benefit.
We must take seriously the threat of losing our National Historic Landmark status granted over 50 years ago and create these historic districts before it’s too late.
Engaging in good faith efforts to create these historic districts can serve as a means to win back the trust of the public, who believe it is the responsibility of the City of Mackinac Island to value its historic heritage.