Changes to Helena ordinance could affect the future of historic buildings

Posted at 4:51 PM, Jan 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-19 13:07:07-05

HELENA — On Tuesday, the Heritage Tourism Council (HTC) discussed potential changes to the City of Helena’s Historic Demolition Ordinance.

The city ordinance outlines the review process for issuing a demolition permit for buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places or within Helena’s Historic Districts.

The Heritage Tourism Council wants to revise the ordinance in order to provide clearer guidelines. They say they are looking to improve the process and the application requirements.

“Hopefully we'll clarify the requirements for, again, the applicant, for staff, for city staff, for the Heritage Tourism Council, for the public,” says Historic Preservation Office Assistant, Kathy Macefield.

The Hedges House of 320 E Broadway is one of the latest historic buildings to be the focus of debate. The building at the corner of Rodney St and Broadway St was built in 1878 for early Yellowstone explorer Cornelius Hedges. It was deemed uninhabitable after a fire in 2018.

Its current owners wanted to demolish the building and replace it with an eight-unit apartment complex. But city commissioners denied the permit last September.

Tuesday, HTC worked on its revision of the ordinance. They plan to meet next week, as well, to continue the process. They then hope to meet with the City Commission to discuss their proposed revisions.

“And it also, as Pam said, it contributes to that whole sense of place. People like to live in historic areas, historic communities. And so, it's important to do what we can to protect them, if we can,” says Macefield.