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Mahncke Park Residents Upset Over 30% Rule For Historic Designation

An increasingly vocal group of homeowners is making its opposition known about turning the century-old Mahncke Park neighborhood into a historic district.   

Sporting signs and t-shirts saying "51% should rule," Mahncke Park homeowners opposed to the historic designation rallied at a press conference to oppose the city process they say leaves residents powerless against a minority of property owners. 

The historic designation process kicks in after 30% of homeowners make an official request, and the law does not require the agreement of a majority.

“More than 50% of our neighborhood opposes being a historical district,” said Dr. Gary Cox.

Cox said the current ordinance, which triggers public hearings after 30% percent of homeowners request a historic designation, is taking away the rights of most of the homeowners in Mahncke Park.

“Unfortunately, these three meetings that they’re going to come up with are all pro-historic presentations of why we should be (a historic district), and they don’t bring out any of the negatives,” Cox said.

Homeowner Heather Clark said she signed the original petition for the historic designation, but now that she has learned more about permissions that would be required for changes to her home, she has changed her mind.

“And I have read accounts of other people in historic neighborhoods who have had to go to ridiculous lengths in order to do simple repairs and improvements on their homes,” Clark said.

Shanon Miller with the city’s Office of Historic Preservation said even if the number in favor of the designation has dropped below the 30% threshold, the rezoning process will continue, including public hearings and presentations to the Historic and Design Review Commission.

“And so once the public hearing process has started, it’s started," Miller said. "And if there’s some question about some of the people or how they voted, that will come out during the public hearing process."

The HDRC at the first hearing tabled the matter until October. The city said it will hold three more public hearings before HDRC considers the designation again. If approved by HDRC, the proposal still must get San Antonio City Council approval.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.