Update on the Ypsi-Arbor sign… There’s still time to save it, but does anyone care?

ypsi_arbor_bowlAs I mentioned in my last post about the Ypsi-Arbor sign, I wrote to Washtenaw County Commissioner Wes Prater and asked him to intervene, stop the auction, and protect the historic sign. Well, I just received his response. Here it is, in its entirety.

“I agree with most of your concerns. It would benefit the Community, long term. Getting there would be difficult, because you would have to persuade the property owner to make application to become a Historical District for the sign.”

With all due respect to Commissioner Prater, this, according to my understanding of the County’s preservation ordinance, is not the case. As we’ve discussed before, the County Board of Commissioners may establish an emergency moratorium on pending work that “will cause irreparable harm to resources located within an established historic district or a proposed historic district.”

If Prater were right, Ypsi’s historic Starkweather House would have been bulldozed years ago. If you’ll recall, Art Campbell, who then owned the home, had arranged to have torn down, but was stopped at the last minute when local elected officials caught wind of his plans. (You’ll have to ask me for the whole story over beers sometime.) Campbell fought it for a while, but, as I recall, he eventually ended up donating the historic home to the City.

Reading between the lines a bit, it sounds to me like Prater is saying that he’d be happy to see the iconic 1964 sign preserved, but only if he doesn’t have to lift a finger to do it, or upset a local businessman in the process. In other words, he’s not going to move to stop the sale, even though he admittedly thinks that preserving the sign would be in the best long term interests of his constituents.

The auction ends in about 6 days. If something is going to happen, it has to happen soon. Once the sign sells, it’s doubtful there’s anything that we can do.

If you would like to contact Prater, you can find his phone number and email by following the above link.

And, here, for those who haven’t read the previous posts, is why I think this particular sign is important to our community.

…The Washtenaw Avenue corridor is the most traveled thoroughfare in our County, and this is easily the most distinctive feature on it. In a sea of fast food chains and endless strip malls, it stands out, exuding character, and, at least symbolically, bringing our two cities together. As cities nationwide are descending into a homogeneous mess of lowest common denominator crap, I think it’s imperative for us to stand up and protect the things that make our community unique, and give us a sense of history and place…

Now please make that call.

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  1. Jacques
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    it’s too bad the sign doesn’t read “ypsitucky” bowl!

  2. K2
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    God forbid that he do his job and stand in the way of a business transaction.

  3. what did you expect
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    This is exactly what I’d expect from a Township politician. They don’t give a crap about history, or creating a unique environment. They care about strip malls and fast food chains. Just look around. It’s all about business. I think you said it best a few posts ago when you talked about the majestic wheels of capitalism (that we’re all getting crushed beneath). We should steal the fucking sign. Who has a torch that can cut through that metal pole? We’ll keep the sign in exile, waiting for the day we retake control of our county.

  4. Posted April 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely dors the owner NOT have decide for historic designation. ANYBODY can make the nomination. It takes a long time. County board cn place an emergency moratorium on demolition, however.

  5. Posted April 25, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    A bit more information regarding Art Campbell & the Starkweather home.
    He tried for YEARS to get Historical status on this house. After being denied for way too long, serious and expensive work had to be done to this jewel to preserve it. Thus leaving him no recourse at the time. At the last minute, Wow, the Historical Society of Ypsi finally decides this home is worthy. Art sold it, and funds were available to do what little *has* been done to this Property.
    Please back further statements made at your sight with a few more facts!
    Wes Prater makes some very tough decisions, but I believe he’s always had this City’s best interests at Heart…………….

  6. just let it go
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    It is too late, no interest and no money to preserve the sign on this site as it is. But it can be taken to the museum where it would be preserved and seen for the next 100 years. It could be installed inside a club or restaurant that has enough room and ceiling height to install at least the sign cabinets and would not be regulated by the local codes. Out on the Washtenaw Ave corridor, where it does not stand any chance because it is a NON CONFORMING sign per local codes and is about to be even more NON CONFORMING when the new “Washtenaw Ave. Corridor Authority” takes over. They are looking for the aesthetics look, small tiny low signs that are not visible. Maybe go to one of the Washtenaw Ave. Corridor Authority meetings, and ask what they would do with this sign when they take over Washtenaw Ave?

  7. Mike
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Why don’t you just bid on the sign? If you own it, you can do what you want with it.

  8. jcj
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    What a bunch of idiots! You have know about this for a while. If enough people CARED about this monstrosity they would have took up a collection and bought it. Lame brain socialist nuts! Take what ever you want it doesn’t matter WHO it belongs to.

  9. Posted April 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I actually did call Wes, who very kindly called me back, and I also did some research into Washtenaw County’s historic preservation law.

    Wes had not seen the auction website you link to; you might want to send it to him. He told me that the only way for a property to be listed as a historic site was for the property owner to apply for that status. There’s nothing in the historic preservation law that says that (that I could find), but it does say that the County shall not designate an area a historic district without the approval of the majority of the voters who live there.

    The law also says that the County may place an emergency moratorium on work only if the site is a historic site or proposed historic site. Since Ypsi-Arbor lanes is neither, they cannot do that in this case. The law says nothing (that I could find) about who can propose a historic district, so it might be possible for a third party to file an application to establish a historic district there and then convince the county to place a moratorium on the auction on the newly-proposed historic site. But someone would have to do that; the County can’t just do it on its own, and the application would probably ultimately fail without voter support.

    Hope this is informative!

  10. ahug
    Posted May 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    It is past its prime and if a museum doesn’t want it, then it should be recycled.

  11. Edward
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Well, it’s sold.


  12. Randall
    Posted May 30, 2011 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    The sign is being taken down this morning…

  13. Posted May 30, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Yup. It’s gone. Thanks for the report, Randall.

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