New Neighborhood Voice

Letter to the Historical Heritage Comission

Return to Home Page 
Return to Current Newsletter

November 6, 2003

To: Historical Heritage Commission (HHC)

Re: Historical Resource identified as "Noll Ranch"

Our family owns the property known by the HHC as "Noll Ranch" located at 1885 East Main Avenue in Morgan Hill. These ten acres have been passed down to us from our grandfather who once was a local rancher. The four of us, his grandchildren, own this property. Our grandfather died in 1969.

Our plan for the property is to sell in the very near future. We had planned on selling earlier, however with the downturn in the economy, we decided to wait until the local economy turned around. The proceeds from the sale were to be used for one member to pay off educational and business loans, another to use as a down payment to purchase their first home, and for educational funds and retirement for the last two, exactly what our grandfather would have wanted.

The property has an inoperative well and three derelict buildings: a residence, barn and garage. The level of maintenance has been minimal and termite assessment and repair has never been done. The reason has always been to sell giving the new owners the option to build a new home with room and space. The house is too small for modern families and the land too small to farm with no options to subdivide and develop which limit the dollar value of the property.

The Historical Preservation Ordinance as written, changes everything. All our plans will be tabled indefinitely. With the prospect of serious upgrade and maintenance costs, there will be financial hardship for two and retirement impact for all. Our right to sell will be indirectly taken away, for finding a buyer willing to assume financial responsibility for meaningless buildings, will be impossible. We will not have the same opportunities our neighbors have for the simple offense of being descendants of our grandfather. Without financial resources to upgrade, we would then be looking at criminal charges and additional fines. Something, none of us could afford either. Following this to its logical conclusion, loss of property to the County is a real threat.

We do not plan to just criticize the proposed Ordinance. We would like to offer suggestions on improving. The following attachments are suggestions on improving the Ordinance and process.

I hope these thoughts help. We were honored that Noll Property was identified as a Historical Resource originally. We are still proud of our grandfather. However, this Ordinance will adversely affect us forever.

In closing, if the suggestions on Attachment B are adopted, come out and talk to our father. He is 85. You've missed the opportunity to talk to our grandfather. You've also missed our uncle and mother. Talk to us, the grandchildren. All of us have plenty to share. Have us all give you tours and record the inside and out of the barn, the house, the garage. Record it all. In addition, we have pictures and artifacts we would gladly donate. Then please, take us off the Resource List and let us get on with our lives. Our grandfather would have wanted it that way.

If you have any questions or would like additional information on process input, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you for your consideration,

Pete and Sandy Slorp
2395 Magnolia Ct.
Morgan Hill, CA 95037
408-779-6061

.cc
Pamela and Gary George, co-property owner
Teri Bradford, co-property owner
Stephen and Lynda Slorp, co-property owner
Don Gage, District 1 Supervisor, Santa Clara County
Rachael Gibson, Land Use Aide, Santa Clara County

Attachment A

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING HISTORICAL HERITAGE ORDINANCE

1. Prioritize the Resource List. The current South County Resource list consists of critically important assets that must be preserved at all costs. It also lists assets that are at varying degrees less critical. List them as follows:

a. Critical Assets. Landmarks that should be preserved with SCC public funding or private donations. This can be done through taxes, donations, trusts, fund raising, tours, etc. Examples: Coyote Grange Hall, Gilroy City Hall, Machado School.

b. Notable Resources. Buildings or sites that would be nice to preserve, but not critical. Funding unavailable or not practical to preserve.

c. Resources to be considered later. Resources that should be listed only. To be reviewed every 5 or 10 years. Could move up or eventually taken off list.

Critical assets on public land should be preserved in their current form. Those on private land should be preserved on site with property owner's permission. Some form of agreement should be drawn up to protect the asset over several changes in ownership in the future. Santa Clara County (SCC) should ensure there is no financial hardship on an owner. Possible options include subdividing so as SCC could purchase land occupied by building. There should be no cost to the owner if they are unwilling or unable to maintain. SCC should purchase the building and move it to County property if preservation on site is in anyway detrimental to the owner.

Funding should come from the County of Santa Clara, not the property owner. If the benefit is for the County, then all of it's citizens should contribute. A small tax increase, although unfavorable, should be imposed on all. I realize the easiest path is to force the property owner to pay for improvements and maintenance, however those that benefit the most should absorb the costs. Passing a tax increase measure will be difficult, but you will then know how important preserving all these assets are to the community.

Notable Resources should be recorded (Attachment B) and when completed, left to the owner on how or if to preserve. SCC could move the buildings to County property if deemed important.

Resources to be considered later should be recorded (Attachment B) and monitored every 5 -10 years. Owner should decide the status of resource.

2. Alter the Enforcement and Penalties paragraphs. Adjust the penalties down to reflect reality on critical assets on public property only. Critical assets on private property should be moved if the County is concerned on any preservation issues. No fines should be issued to private property owners, as there are many alternatives to preserving the asset. I really don't think you want to penalize descendants of pioneers or unsuspecting buyers who have purchased property with one of these resources on it. Charging them with a crime in addition to leveling fines up to $200,000 would be totally out of proportion to any perceived violation. Besides, if an owner cannot afford to upgrade or maintain, then paying a fine is equally out of reach.

The work of identifying and preserving historical buildings is worthy and should continue. SCC should work with their citizens, not demand and enforce. Nothing is important enough to force your citizens to give up their rights and opportunities that their neighbors retain. Having those rights is what makes being an American citizen so great. Taking away the rights of even a few affects all. Please use caution. Work with the owners.

3. Include a notification and challenge clause. Property should not be listed without owner's knowledge and then given an appeal process to make any changes. Property owners should be notified prior to their property being listed and given a process to challenge. Once on, then the appeal process makes sense.

Some owners might not object to their property being listed. But, if they know all the facts and repercussions of this Ordinance, they can make that decision and provide input to the Commission. For example, just because a building is old doesn't make it significant to the history of the County. On the other hand, a relatively young building might be a critical asset. At least there would be a logical discussion between the Commission and the people most familiar with the property.

Attachment B

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING THE HISTORICAL HERITAGE PROCESS

Having spent so much energy on the Ordinance that focuses on wood and nails, I believe we are missing the most important historical asset in our County: our Human Resources.

No Ordinance written, regardless of the penalties, can force someone to live forever. We are loosing our human assets every day. The more we loose the more history is lost. My suggestion is to start recording our human history immediately.

1. Hire a good video crew. One that can set up portable recording studios in people's homes.

Along with a good interviewer, record conversations with the people who made our history. Have them sit at the table that they sat at when they were children and tell you their stories. Have them give a tour of the buildings, barns, outbuildings, and farms, pump houses and significant sites. Have them tell you in their own words what went on there. Who were their customers, what family get-togethers were like, the cost of living then, what did they do for fun there, vacations, on and on. You see, you then bring soul to a building and then have it recorded forever.

2. Distribute the CDs to libraries and schools. For the libraries, distribute the entire CD collection. For schools, provide condensed versions. Sell them and make available on the Internet.

With this collection, history students, amateur historians and just interested folks could retrieve information immediately. This would protect forever the buildings lost to development, neglect or lack of funds. It would add significance as the story would be told by the people that made the history in their own voices. Instead of a shell, you maintain a living history. In addition, this collection would be more cost effective than maintaining a huge inventory of old buildings.

Preserve the critical assets, but record all historical events. This way what little available funds could be applied to the truly important buildings and you have a recorded history available to everyone. I believe that maintaining a barn and house would have no meaning to future generations except for a few history buffs. The vast majority would drive by and give it no more notice than other old buildings spread across our County and certainly no school would take field trips out to view our barn. With a visual tour, narrated by the very people that lived there would add meaning. Having that available in schools, libraries and Internet, makes it far more valuable.

Copyrightę 2002, 2003 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved. New Neighborhood Voice assumes no responsibility for the reliability or accuracy of any information posted on this page.  Updated 11/6/03

Return to Top