MILTON — The city’s Historic Preservation Board has requested the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation to remove Milton’s downtown district from the “2017 Florida’s 11 To Save,” or endangered, list.
The trust added the historic district to the endangered list — for the sixth time — in late May. At a city council meeting in early June, the council discussed the inclusion; who applied for the district to be on the list; and what the council would do about it.
Councilwoman Sharon Holley said she was concerned about Milton’s position on the list and that it could hurt the city’s property values. Holley said whoever applied for the city to be on the list should have brought the issue to the council before contacting the trust.
Holley said she later learned through social media that the Santa Rosa Historical Society, a local nonprofit organization, applied for the district to be on the list.
Vernon Compton, the historical society's spokesperson, has said the district’s inclusion on the list would help the city and could stop the Florida Department of Transportation from making Highway 90 four lanes.
Holley suggested that the city draft a letter to the trust, requesting removal from the endangered list. The city's Planning and Development Department drafted the letter at the Milton Historic Preservation Board’s request. The letter, sent June 20, questions the trust’s reasoning for adding the district to the list and challenges their interpretation that the proposed widening of Highway 90 is detrimental to the city.
"FDOT must evaluate every aspect of the impact of a proposed project,” the letter signed by Michael Lewis, chairman of the Historic Preservation Board, said. “The (Project Development and Environmental study) is one step that helps to identify the preferred alternative. That work is not complete."
According to Lewis, the trust has not formally replied to the letter.
Holley said she also has not heard back from the organization but wants a list of everyone involved in the application’s submission to the trust. According to Mayor Wesley Meiss, Holley’s demand could send the wrong message to residents.
“It’s their constitutional right to put us on that list,” Meiss said.
The Press Gazette contacted Melissa Wyllie, the trust’s executive director, who said in a statement, “The Florida's 11 to Save program exists to provide a voice for all people of Florida, to raise awareness and foster collaboration and communication about historic places.
“In Milton, we have seen that the program works. People throughout the city are discussing how best to grow as a community while staying true to its history and preserving its historic fabric for future generations. We have heard from many people in Milton still worried today about the special historic places in their city. Inclusion on the 11 to Save list allows those voices to be heard.
“In the year ahead, we look forward to working with all stakeholders in Milton to discuss the future of this important and unique historic city for a successful outcome for both the downtown and transportation initiatives.”