Working with Government Agencies | HPC Training | Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

Working with Government Agencies

Chapter 10: Preservation Community Relationships, Page 3 of 5

Working with Government Agencies | HPC Training | Wisconsin Historical Society

Due to the nature of their work, commissions will need to work with many departments in their local government. Therefore, it is imperative that employees within these offices, and especially department heads, be familiar with the commission and recognize it as an established part of local government.

Build Relationships with Government Officials

Commission members should take the time to get to know people in local offices and develop a rapport with them. Become familiar with the work that these departments do and understand how that affects preservation.

In developing these relationships, commission members should appreciate the expertise of the staff and promote an atmosphere of mutual respect. In turn, commission members can use their background in historic preservation and the design review process to help the staff of these departments understand the policies and procedures in effect and how they correspond to their specific department.

In working with the different offices, be sure all parties are aware of their distinct roles and duties to avoid confusion, stepping on toes, and bruising egos.

Attend Meetings

To be visible within the network of local government and to stay informed of city projects and issues, commission members should attend city council meetings, and attend any city-sponsored events. Likewise, it is good policy to have a council member appointed as a liaison to the commission. The council member will attend commission meetings and report back to the council on the commission's activities.

Commission members should always keep in mind that they need a significant amount of support from elected officials in order to be productive and effective. If the commission and elected officials do not agree, the commission should not argue. Instead, it should present its recommendation or decision within their authority set forth in the local ordinance and let the elected officials make their decision.

Government Offices that Interact with Commissions

These are some of the local government offices that a historic preservation commission will interact with on a regular basis:

Building Inspection
The building inspection office will be in charge of inspecting properties for their compliance with commission decisions and enforcing those decisions. These individuals need to know district boundaries, and have a good working knowledge of the design review process and subsequent rules and regulations.
Planning Commission
The historic preservation commission should work with the planning commission on long-range plans to incorporate preservation goals within the overall city strategy. Historic preservation commission members should be active in developing comprehensive plans and take lead roles in plans addressing historic resources.
Affordable Housing
Many historic preservation projects involve developing affordable housing for low- to moderate-income groups. Many financial incentives for preservation work are directed at this purpose, and commission members will need to ensure that employees of this department are aware of these programs and their benefits.
Livable Neighborhoods and Revitalization
Any revitalization efforts, whether in downtown commercial districts or residential neighborhoods, should strongly involve preservation projects. Many preservation financial incentives are directed toward these types of projects. Commission members need to be actively involved with these efforts and work with the departments in charge to develop the best methods for revitalizing areas.