2012-07-07 / Letters

Preservation District Protects Us All, Not Just A Few

To the Editor:

We all support property rights and chafe at the idea of restrictions being put on our businesses or homes, so it’s understandable why some business owners would be wary of the proposed historic district designation.

But there is ample, fact-based evidence that historic preservation brings economic benefits to a community, which, in the long run, far outweigh any perceived burdensome restrictions.

We already live with restrictions on the island, whether it’s how we sort our garbage or the height of our buildings. And, of course, it’s a most unusual restriction – the banning of cars – that makes Mackinac the unique tourist destination, and beloved home, that it is. Most of us agree that these restrictions, while sometimes inconvenient, are in the best interest of all. So it is with a historic district, which imposes some inconveniences in exchange for the long-term health of the community.

Several business people have stated that there’s no need for a designated historic district because they’re already doing a good job of preservation. Indeed, many of them are.

But that’s like saying that there’s no need for a set speed limit because most of us drive responsibly. Most of us do, most of the time. But the speed limit can be used to reign in the one or two reckless drivers who consistently endanger us all.

Many business people on this island are responsible preservationists, but there are a few who show little regard for Mackinac’s authentic historical character, and consistently endanger the economic health of the island.

The most recent changes to downtown Mackinac are seen by just about everyone as inappropriate and harmful to the common good. Yet, they’re allowed in the name of protecting property rights. In fact, it’s the financial gain of a few that’s being protected, at the expense of everyone else.

The creation of a historic district imposes a fair “speed limit” for all, and is the only way to put a stop to the sort of reckless development that endangers the long term appeal and economic vitality of Mackinac Island – to tourists, business owners and residents alike.

This may be the most important decision facing this island since the banning of the automobile. The Historic District Study Committee should side with history and do the right thing.

Susan Lenfestey

East Bluff

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