Historic preservation in Bexley, considering the requests of property owners with a desire to maintain what gives the city character, is getting attention.

During an Oct. 2 meeting at Bexley City Hall, the city's Historic Preservation Working Group sought input from residents on how to best preserve the city's historic commercial and residential structures.

The Historic Preservation Working Group convened in February, charged with implementing "new practices towards the preservation of historic structures within Bexley, and to recognize the benefits of preserving our existing quality in order to maintain the historically unique character seen throughout Bexley," according to the city of Bexley's website, bexley.org.

Mayor Ben Kessler said historic preservation has been a hot topic in Bexley for at least the past 20 years, and a series of residential demolitions in recent years led to the city's current demolition ordinance. The ordinance requires residents who apply for demolition permits to undergo an assessment by the city of whether the property is architecturally or historically significant.

"That has been a contentious law, because there have been instances where neighbors felt like in their neighborhood, a house was being demolished and it was significant, it was worthy of preservation," Kessler said. "But maybe there wasn't evidence presented or, for whatever reason, the appellate bodies determined that it wasn't worthy of preservation."

About 10 residents attended the Oct. 2 meeting and offered the working group feedback on issues such as how to best protect historic properties, including commercial properties.

"We have no protections in Bexley for historic commercial property or institutional," Kessler said. "I like to use the worst-case scenario: somebody buys the library and a developer wants to come in and build an office building there. There's absolutely no legal reason for us to say no to that."

Working-group members and residents also discussed how to document the various architectural styles in Bexley.

Bill Heyer, a member of the Bexley Architectural Review Board, said residential styles throughout the city include colonial revival, Tudor revival, Italian renaissance, mid-century modern and other categories.

"That's what gives Bexley a lot of its character," Heyer said. "We have lots of houses that have, generally, one particular look, but then they have other things that might be a little different. Or maybe they don't fit into any category."

Another topic of discussion was the possibility of forming districts within Bexley based on architectural styles or geographic location.

Bexley Tree and Public Gardens commissioner Susan Quintenz pointed out that forming districts could be challenging in a city the size of Bexley, which has a population of 13,057 and an area of 2.43 square miles, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Quintenz said the focus should be on "inclusiveness, rather than sectioning a small community into smaller districts."

Kessler said the working group will take residents' feedback into account as subcommittees explore over the next few months whether to create districts and other issues such as revising and updating the city's design guidelines. The subcommittees will reconvene for a larger working-group meeting at a date yet to be determined, Kessler said.

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