A looming debate over whether aging buildings on the beach should be declared historic landmarks has created a phantom line in the sand between two warring parties.
On one side are land owners who fear losing their right to do with their property as they wish. Any plan to preserve old buildings, they say, would hurt property values and potentially halt a new era of redevelopment on the beach.
"Some of these properties are not worth saving," said resident
On the other side are preservationists who want to protect decades-old buildings from being demolished and turned into hotels, condos and parking lots. A historic designation, they argue, would preserve the old-time character of the neighborhood, boost property values and make owners eligible for tax exemptions and credits.
To longtime resident
"So many of our buildings are gone," she says. "It's important to save the ones that are left."
The debate comes at a critical time for the beach, where some are predicting a building boom triggered by
"When you get in an area when there's no vacant land, a historic designation can definitely hamper future development of that area," McCabe said. "Once they get these historical designations, they don't ever go away. If it passes, it's darn near impossible to reverse it."
"We need to look at the buildings and see which are worth preserving," he said.
The prospect of a new study has people like
"This will be a new study with new repercussions and new results," said Dragif, a
The following year,
Anyone who owns property inside the district needs approval from
Because some buildings on the list are outside the district, they are not subject to the same requirements.
Yet they remain in limbo, says Camejo.
A request to demolish one of these buildings would be met with greater scrutiny because it has been listed as a possible historic site, Camejo warned.
The Breakers, a two-story apartment building from the 1920s, had a date with a wrecking ball last fall.
"There were 10 apartments in there and they were in dire need of repair and upgrade," Provenzano said. "The building was by no means a landmark structure."
Beauty doesn't play a role when it comes to historic preservation, said
"Ugly or pretty, whether you like it or not is irrelevant," Baber said. "It's how significant it is as a piece of architecture or piece of history. It might be the last existing example."
Smith, 86, believes it's important to save those pieces of history that remain standing.
"I think they should make every effort to preserve the historical buildings," said Smith, a founder of the
"In relation to historic buildings, there are some people who view them as being in the way," she said. "But if you were to ask the question, there would be a story behind that old building. You point to a building that was erected five seconds ago, there's no story there."
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